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A Reputed Changeling by Charlotte M. Yonge

Part 3 out of 8

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deems not absolute pagan, knew, loved, and borrowed from Dante. All
my books are turned over as ruthlessly as ever Don Quixote's by the
curate and the barber, and whatever Mr. Horncastle's erudition
cannot vouch for is summarily handed over to the kitchen wench to
light the fires. The best of it is that they have left me my
classics, as though old Terence and Lucan were lesser heathens than
the great Florentine. However, I have bribed the young maid, and
rescued my Dante and Boiardo with small damage, but I dare not read
them save with door locked."

Mrs. Woodford could scarcely shake her head at the disobedience, and
she asked if there were really no other varieties.

"Such as fencing with that lubber Robert, and trying to bend his
stiff limbs to the noble art of l'escrime. But that is after dinner
work. There is the mountain of half-raw flesh to be consumed first,
and then my father, with Mr. Horncastle and Bob discuss on what they
call the news--happy if a poor rogue has been caught by Tom
Constable stealing faggots. 'Tis argument for a week--almost equal
to the price of a fat mutton at Portsmouth. My father and the
minister nod in due time over their ale-cup, and Bob and I go our
ways till dark, or till the house bell rings for prayers and
exposition. Well, dear good lady, I will not grieve you by telling
you how often they make me wish to be again the imp devoid of every
shred of self-respect, and too much inured to flogging to heed what
my antics might bring on me."

"I am glad you have that shred of self respect; I hope indeed it is
some higher respect."

"Well, I can never believe that Heaven meant to be served by mortal
dullness. Seven years have only made old Horncastle blow his horn
to the same note, only more drearily."

"I can see indeed that it is a great trial to one used to the life
of foreign Courts and to interest in great affairs like you, my poor
Peregrine; but what can I say but to entreat you to be patient, try
to find interest, and endeavour to win your father's confidence so
that he may accord you more liberty? Did I not hear that your
attention made your mother's life happier?"

Peregrine laughed. "My mother! She has never seen aught but
boorishness all her life, and any departure therefrom seems to her
unnatural. I believe she is as much afraid of my courtesy as ever
she was of my mischief, and that in her secret heart she still
believes me a changeling. No, Madam Woodford, there is but one way
to save me from the frenzy that comes over me."

"Your father has already been entreated to let you join your uncle."

"I know it--I know it; but if it were impossible before, that
discovery of Dante has made it impossibilissimo, as the Italian
would say, to deal with him now. There is a better way. Give me
the good angel who has always counteracted the evil one. Give me
Mistress Anne!"

"Anne, my Anne!" exclaimed Mrs. Woodford in dismay. "O Peregrine,
it cannot be!"

"I knew that would be your first word," said Peregrine, "but verily,
madam, I would not ask it but that I know that I should be another
man with her by my side, and that she would have nothing to fear
from the evil that dies at her approach."

"Ah, Peregrine! you think so now; but no man can be sure of himself
with any mere human care. Besides, my child is not of degree to
match with you. Your father would justly be angered if we took
advantage of your attachment to us to encourage you in an
inclination he could never approve."

"I tell you, madam--yes, I must tell you all--my madness and my ruin
will be completed if I am left to my father's will. I know what is
hanging over me. He is only waiting till I am of age--at Midsummer,
and the year of mourning is over for poor Oliver--I am sure no one
mourns for him more heartily than I--to bind me to Martha Browning.
If she would only bring the plague, or something worse than
smallpox, to put an end to it at once!"

"But that would make any such scheme all the more impossible."

"Listen, madam; do but hear me. Even as children the very sight of
Martha Browning's solemn face"--Peregrine drew his countenance down
into a portentous length--"her horror at the slightest word or
sport, her stiff broomstick carriage, all impelled me to the most
impish tricks. And now--letting alone that pock-marks have seamed
her grim face till she is as ugly as Alecto--she is a Precisian of
the Precisians. I declare our household is in her eyes sinfully
free! If she can hammer out a text of Scripture, and write her name
in characters as big and gawky as herself, 'tis as far as her
education has carried her, save in pickling, preserving, stitchery,
and clear starching, the only arts not sinful in her eyes. If I am
to have a broomstick, I had rather ride off on one at once to the
Witches' Sabbath on the Wartburg than be tied to one for life."

"I should think she would scarce accept you."

"There's no such hope. She has been bred up to regard one of us as
her lot, and she would accept me without a murmur if I were
Beelzebub himself, horns and tail and all! Why, she ogles me with
her gooseberry eyes already, and treats me as a chattel of her own."

"Hush, hush, Peregrine! I cannot have you talk thus. If your
father had such designs, it would be unworthy of us to favour you in
crossing them."

"Nay, madam, he hath never expressed them as yet. Only my mother
and brother both refer to his purpose, and if I could show myself
contracted to a young lady of good birth and education, he cannot
gainsay; it might yet save me from what I will not and cannot
endure. Not that such is by any means my chief and only motive. I
have loved Mistress Anne with all my heart ever since she shone upon
me like a being from a better world when I lay sick here. She has
the same power of hushing the wild goblin within me as you have,
madam. I am another man with her, as I am with you. It is my only
hope! Give me that hope, and I shall be able to endure patiently.--
Ah! what have I done? Have I said too much?"

He had talked longer and more eagerly than would have been good for
the invalid even if the topic had been less agitating, and the
emotion caused by this unexpected complication, consternation at the
difficulties she foresaw, and the present difficulty of framing a
reply, were altogether too much for Mrs. Woodford. She turned
deadly white, and gasped for breath, so that Peregrine, in terror,
dashed off in search of the maids, exclaiming that their mistress
was in a swoon.

The Doctor came out of his study much distressed, and in Anne's
absence the household was almost helpless in giving the succours in
which she had always been the foremost. Peregrine lingered about in
remorse and despair, offering to fetch her or to go for the doctor,
and finally took the latter course, thereto impelled by the angry
words of the old cook, an enemy of his in former days.

"No better? no, sir, nor 'tis not your fault if ever she be. You've
been and frought her nigh to death with your terrifying ways."

Peregrine was Hampshire man enough to know that to terrify only
meant to tease, but he was in no mood to justify himself to old
Patience, so he galloped off to Portsmouth, and only returned with
the doctor to hear that Madam Woodford was in bed, and her daughter
with her. She was somewhat better, but still very ill, and it was
plain that this was no moment for pressing his suit even had it not
been time for him to return home. Going to fetch the doctor might
be accepted as a valid reason for missing the evening exhortation
and prayer, but there were mistrustful looks that galled him.

Anne's return was more beneficial to Mrs. Woodford than the doctor's
visit, and the girl was still too ignorant of all that her mother's
attacks of spasms and subsequent weakness implied to be as much
alarmed as to depress her hopes. Yet Mrs. Woodford, lying awake in
the night, detected that her daughter was restless and unhappy, and
asked what ailed her, and how the visit had gone off.

"You do not wish me to speak of such things, madam," was the answer.

"Tell me all that is in your heart, my child."

It all came out with the vehemence of a reserved nature when the
flood is loosed. 'Young Madam' had been more than usually peevish
and exacting, jealous perhaps at Lucy's being the heroine of the
day, and fretful over a cold which confined her to the house, how
she worried and harassed all around her with her whims, megrims and
complaints could only too well be imagined, and how the entire
pleasure of the day was destroyed. Lucy was never allowed a
minute's conversation with her friend without being interrupted by a
whine and complaints of unkindness and neglect.

Lady Archfield's ill-usage, as the young wife was pleased to call
every kind of restriction, was the favourite theme next to the
daughter-in law's own finery, her ailments, and her notions of the
treatment befitting her.

And young Mr. Archfield himself, while handing his old friend out to
the carriage that had fetched her, could not help confiding to her
that he was nearly beside himself. His mother meant to be kind, but
expected too much from one so brought up, and his wife--what could
be done for her? She made herself miserable here, and every one
else likewise. Yet even if his father would consent, she was
utterly unfit to be mistress of a house of her own; and poor Charles
could only utter imprecations on the guardians who could have had no
idea how a young woman ought to be brought up. It was worse than an
ill-trained hound."

Mrs. Woodford heard what she extracted from her daughter with grief
and alarm, and not only for her friends.

"Indeed, my dear child," she said, "you must prevent such
confidences. They are very dangerous things respecting married
people."

"It was all in a few moments, mamma, and I could not stop him. He
is so unhappy;" and Anne's voice revealed tears.

"The more reason why you should avoid hearing what he will soon be
very sorry you have heard. Were he not a mere lad himself, it would
be as inexcusable as it is imprudent thus to speak of the troubles
and annoyances that often beset the first year of wedded life. I am
sorry for the poor youth, who means no harm nor disloyalty, and is
only treating you as his old companion and playmate; but he has no
right thus to talk of his wife, above all to a young maiden too
inexperienced to counsel him, and if he should attempt to do so
again, promise me, my daughter, that you will silence him--if by no
other means, by telling him so."

"I promise!" said Anne, choking back her tears and lifting her head.
"I am sure I never want to go to Fareham again while that Lieutenant
Sedley Archfield is there. If those be army manners, they are what
I cannot endure. He is altogether mean and hateful, above all when
he scoffs at Master Oakshott."

"I am afraid a great many do so, child, and that he often gives some
occasion," put in Mrs. Woodford, a little uneasy that this should be
the offence.

"He is better than Sedley Archfield, be he what he will, madam,"
said the girl. "He never pays those compliments, those insolent
disgusting compliments, such as he--that Sedley, I mean--when he
found me alone in the hall, and I had to keep him at bay from trying
to kiss me, only Mr. Archfield--Charley--came down the stairs before
he was aware, and called out, 'I will thank you to behave yourself
to a lady in my father's house.' And then he, Sedley, sneered 'The
Parson's niece!' with such a laugh, mother, I shall never get it out
of my ears. As if I were not as well born as he!"

"That is not quite the way to take it, my child. I had rather you
stood on your maidenly dignity and discretion than on your birth. I
trust he will soon be away."

"I fear he will not, mamma, for I heard say the troop are coming
down to be under the Duke of Berwick at Portsmouth."

"Then, dear daughter, it is the less mishap that you should be thus
closely confined by loving attendance on me. Now, goodnight.
Compose yourself to sleep, and think no more of these troubles."

Nevertheless mother and daughter lay long awake, side by side, that
night; the daughter in all the flutter of nerves induced by offended
yet flattered feeling--hating the compliment, yet feeling that it
was a compliment to the features that she was beginning to value.
She was substantially a good, well-principled maiden, modest and
discreet, with much dignified reserve, yet it was impossible that
she should not have seen heads turned to look at her in Portsmouth,
and know that she was admired above her contemporaries, so that even
if it brought her inconvenience it was agreeable. Besides, her
heart was beating with pity for the Archfields. The elder ones
might have only themselves to blame, but it was very hard for poor
Charles to have been blindly coupled to a being who did not know how
to value him, still harder that there should be blame for a
confidence where neither meant any harm--blame that made her blush
on her pillow with indignant shame.

Perhaps Mrs. Woodford divined these thoughts, for she too meditated
deeply on the perils of her fair young daughter, and in the morning
could not leave her room. In the course of the day she heard that
Master Peregrine Oakshott had been to inquire for her, and was not
surprised when her brother-in-law sought an interview with her. The
gulf between the hierarchy and squirearchy was sufficient for a
marriage to be thought a mesalliance, and it was with a smile at the
folly as well as with a certain displeased pity that Dr. Woodford
mentioned the proposal so vehemently pressed upon him by Peregrine
Oakshott for his niece's hand.

"Poor boy!" said Mrs. Woodford, "it is a great misfortune. You
forbade him of course to speak of such a thing."

"I told him that I could not imagine how he could think us capable
of entertaining any such proposal without his father's consent. He
seems to have hoped that to pledge himself to us might extort
sanction from his father, not seeing that it would be a highly
improper measure, and would only incense the Major."

"All the more that the Major wishes to pass on Mistress Martha
Browning to him, poor fellow."

"He did not tell me so."

Mrs. Woodford related what he had said to her, and the Doctor could
not but observe: "The poor Major! his whole treatment of that
unfortunate youth is as if he were resolved to drive him to
distraction. But even if the Major were ever so willing, I doubt
whether Master Peregrine be the husband you would choose for our
little maid."

"Assuredly not, poor fellow! though if she loved him as he loves
her--which happily she does not--I should scarce dare to stand in
the way, lest she should be the appointed instrument for his good."

"He assured me that he had never directly addressed her."

"No, and I trust he never will. Not that she is ever like to love
him, although she does not shrink from him quite as much as others
do. Yet there is a strain of ambition in my child's nature that
might make her seek the elevation. But, my good brother, for this
and other reasons we must find another home for my poor child when I
am gone. Nay, brother, do not look at me thus; you know as well as
I do that I can scarcely look to see the spring come in, and I would
fain take this opportunity of speaking to you concerning my dear
daughter. No one can be a kinder father to her than you, and I
would most gladly leave her to cheer and tend you, but as things
stand around us she can scarce remain here without a mother's
watchfulness. She is guarded now by her strict attendance on my
infirmity, but when I am gone how will it be?"

"She is as good and discreet a maiden as parent could wish."

"Good and discreet as far as her knowledge and experience go, but
that is not enough. On the one hand, there is a certain wild temper
about that young Master Oakshott such as makes me never know what he
might attempt if, as he says, his father should drive him to
desperation, and this is a lonely place, with the sea close at
hand."

"Lady Archfield would gladly take charge of her."

Mrs. Woodford here related what Anne had said of Sedley's insolence,
but this the Doctor thought little of, not quite believing in the
regiment coming into the neighbourhood, and Mrs. Woodford most
unwillingly was forced to mention her further unwillingness that her
daughter should be made a party to the troubles caused by the silly
young wife of her old playfellow.

"What more?" said the Doctor, holding up his hands. "I never
thought a discreet young maid could be such a care, but I suppose
that is the price we pay for her good looks. Three of them, eh?
What is it that you propose?"

"I should like to place her in the household of some godly and
kindly lady, who would watch over her and probably provide for her
marriage. That, as you know, was my own course, and I was very
happy in Lady Sandwich's family, till I made the acquaintance of
your dear and honoured brother, and my greater happiness began. The
first day that I am able I will write to some of my earlier friends,
such as Mrs. Evelyn and Mrs. Pepys, and again there is Mistress
Eleanor Wall, who, I hear, is married to Sir Theophilus Oglethorpe,
and who might accept my daughter for my sake. She is a warm,
loving, open-hearted creature of Irish blood, and would certainly be
kind to her."

There was no indignity in such a plan. Most ladies of rank or
quality entertained one or more young women of the clerical or
professional classes as companions, governesses, or ladies' maids,
as the case might be. They were not classed with the servants, but
had their share of the society and amusements of the house, and a
fair chance of marriage in their own degree, though the comfort of
their situation varied a good deal according to the amiability of
their mistress, from that of a confidential friend to a white slave
and souffre douleur.

Dr. Woodford had no cause to object except his own loss of his
niece's society and return to bachelor life, after the eight years
of companionship which he had enjoyed; but such complications as
were induced by the presence of an attractive young girl were, as he
allowed, beyond him, and he acquiesced with a sigh in the judgment
of the mother, whom he had always esteemed so highly.

The letters were written, and in due time received kind replies.
Mrs. Evelyn proposed that the young gentlewoman should come and stay
with her till some situation should offer itself, and Lady
Oglethorpe, a warm-hearted Irishwoman, deeply attached to the Queen,
declared her intention of speaking to the King or the Princess Anne
on the first opportunity of the daughter of the brave Captain
Woodford. There might very possibly be a nursery appointment to be
had either at the Cockpit or at Whitehall in the course of the year.

This was much more than Mrs. Woodford had desired. She had far
rather have placed her daughter immediately under some kind matronly
lady in a private household; but she knew that her good friend was
always eager to promise to the utmost of her possible power. She
did not talk much of this to her daughter, only telling her that the
kind ladies had promised to befriend her, and find a situation for
her; and Anne was too much shocked to find her mother actually
making such arrangements to enter upon any inquiries. The
perception that her mother was looking forward to passing away so
soon entirely overset her; she would not think about it, would not
admit the bare idea of the loss. Only there lurked at the bottom of
her heart the feeling that when the crash had come, and desolation
had over taken her, it would be more dreary at Portchester than
anywhere else; and there might be infinite possibilities beyond for
the King's godchild, almost a knight's daughter.

The next time that Mrs. Woodford heard that Major Oakshott was at
the door inquiring for her health, she begged as a favour that he
would come and see her.

The good gentleman came upstairs treading gently in his heavy boots,
as one accustomed to an invalid chamber.

"I am sorry to see you thus, madam," he said, as she held out her
wasted hand and thanked him. "Did you desire spiritual
consolations? There are times when our needs pass far beyond
prescribed forms and ordinances."

"I am thankful for the prayers of good men," said Mrs. Woodford;
"but for truth's sake I must tell you that this was not foremost in
my mind when I begged for this favour."

He was evidently disappointed, for he was producing from his pocket
the little stout black-bound Bible, which, by a dent in one of the
lids, bore witness of having been with him in his campaigns; and
perhaps half-diplomatically, as well as with a yearning for oneness
of spirit, she gratified him by requesting him to read and pray.

With all his rigidity he was too truly pious a man for his
ministrations to contain anything in which, Churchwoman as she was,
she could not join with all her heart, and feel comforting; but ere
he was about to rise from his knees she said, "One prayer for your
son, sir."

A few fervent words were spoken on behalf of the wandering sheep,
while tears glistened in the old man's eyes, and fell fast from
those of the lady, and then he said, "Ah, madam! have I not wrestled
in prayer for my poor boy?"

"I am sure you have, sir. I know you have a deep fatherly love for
him, and therefore I sent to speak to you as a dying woman."

"And I will gladly hear you, for you have always been good to him,
and, as I confess, have done him more good--if good can be called
the apparent improvement in one unregenerate--than any other."

"Except his uncle," said Mrs. Woodford. "I fear it is vain to say
that I think the best hope of his becoming a good and valuable man,
a comfort and not a sorrow to yourself, would be to let him even now
rejoin Sir Peregrine."

"That cannot be, madam. My brother has not kept to the
understanding on which I entrusted the lad to him, but has carried
him into worldly and debauched company, such as has made the sober
and godly habits of his home distasteful to him, and has further
taken him into Popish lands, where he has become infected with their
abominations to a greater extent than I can yet fathom."

Mrs. Woodford sighed and felt hopeless. "I see your view of the
matter, sir. Yet may I suggest that it is hard for a young man to
find wholesome occupation such as may guard him from temptation on
an estate where the master is active and sufficient like yourself?"

"Protection from temptation must come from within, madam," replied
the Major; "but I so far agree with you that in due time, when he
has attained his twenty-first year, I trust he will be wedded to his
cousin, a virtuous and pious young maiden, and will have the
management of her property, which is larger than my own."

"But if--if--sir, the marriage were distasteful to him, could it be
for the happiness and welfare of either?"

"The boy has been complaining to you? Nay, madam, I blame you not.
You have ever been the boy's best friend according to knowledge; but
he ought to know that his honour and mine are engaged. It is true
that Mistress Martha is not a Court beauty, such as his eyes have
unhappily learnt to admire, but I am acting verily for his true
good. 'Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain.'"

"Most true, sir; but let me say one more word. I fear, I greatly
fear, that all young spirits brook not compulsion."

"That means, they will not bow their stiff necks to the yoke."

"Ah, sir! but on the other hand, 'Fathers, provoke not your children
to wrath.' Forgive me, sir; I spoke but out of true affection to
your son, and the fear that what may seem to him severity may not
drive him to some extremity that might grieve you."

"No forgiveness is needed, madam. I thank you for your interest in
him, and for your plain speaking according to your lights. I can
but act according to those vouchsafed unto me."

"And we both agree in praying for his true good," said Mrs.
Woodford.

And with a mutual blessing they parted, Mrs. Woodford deeply sorry
for both father and son, for whom she had done what she could.

It was her last interview with any one outside the house. Another
attack of spasms brought the end, during the east winds of March, so
suddenly as to leave no time for farewells or last words. When she
was laid to rest in the little churchyard within the castle walls,
no one showed such overwhelming tokens of grief as Peregrine
Oakshott, who lingered about the grave after the Doctor had taken
his niece home, and was found lying upon it late in the evening,
exhausted with weeping.

Yet Sedley Archfield, whose regiment had, after all, been sent to
Portsmouth, reported that he had spent the very next afternoon at a
cock-fight, ending in a carouse with various naval and military
officers at a tavern, not drinking, but contributing to the mirth by
foreign songs, tricks, and jests.

CHAPTER XII: THE ONE HOPE

"There's some fearful tie
Between me and that spirit world, which God
Brands with His terrors on my troubled mind."

KINGSLEY.

The final blow had fallen upon Anne Woodford so suddenly that for
the first few days she moved about as one in a dream. Lady
Archfield came to her on the first day, and showed her motherly
kindness, and Lucy was with her as much as was possible under the
exactions of young Madam, who was just sufficiently unwell to resent
attention being paid to any other living creature. She further
developed a jealousy of Lucy's affection for any other friend such
as led to a squabble between her and her husband, and made her
mother-in-law unwillingly acquiesce in the expediency of Anne's
being farther off.

And indeed Anne herself felt so utterly forlorn and desolate that an
impatience of the place came over her. She was indeed fond of her
uncle, but he was much absorbed in his studies, his parish, and in
anxious correspondence on the state of the Church, and was scarcely
a companion to her, and without her mother to engross her love and
attention, and cut off from the Archfields as she now was, there was
little to counterbalance the restless feeling that London and the
precincts of the Court were her natural element. So she wrote her
letters according to her mother's desire, and waited anxiously for
the replies, feeling as if anything would be preferable to her
present unhappiness and solitude.

The answers came in due time. Mrs. Evelyn promised to try to find a
virtuous and godly lady who would be willing to receive Mistress
Anne Woodford into her family, and Lady Oglethorpe wrote with vaguer
promises of high preferment, which excited Anne's imagination during
those lonely hours that she had to spend while her strict mourning,
after the custom of the time, secluded her from all visitors.

Meantime, in that anxious spring of 1688, when the Church of England
was looking to her defences, the Doctor could not be much at home,
and when he had time to listen to private affairs, he heard reports
which did not please him of Peregrine Oakshott. That the young men
in the county all abhorred his fine foreign airs was no serious
evil, though it might be suspected that his sharp ironical tongue
had quite as much to do with their dislike as his greater refinement
of manner.

His father was reported to be very seriously displeased with him,
for he openly expressed contempt of the precise ways of the
household, and absented himself in a manner that could scarcely be
attributed to aught but the licentious indulgences of the time; and
as he seldom mingled in the amusements of the young country
gentlemen, it was only too probable that he found a lower grade of
companions in Portsmouth. Moreover his talk, random though it might
be, offended all the Whig opinions of his father. He talked with
the dogmatism of the traveller of the glories of Louis XIV, and
broadly avowed his views that the grandeur of the nation was best
established under a king who asked no questions of people or
Parliament, 'that senseless set of chattering pies,' as he was
reported to have called the House of Commons.

He sang the praises of the gracious and graceful Queen Mary
Beatrice, and derided 'the dried-up Orange stick,' as he called the
hope of the Protestants; nor did he scruple to pronounce Popery the
faith of chivalrous gentlemen, far preferable to the whining of
sullen Whiggery. No one could tell how far all this was genuine
opinion, or simply delight in contradiction, especially of his
father, who was in a constant state of irritation at the son whom he
could so little manage.

And in the height of the wrath of the whole of the magistracy at the
expulsion of their lord-lieutenant, the Earl of Gainsborough, and
the substitution of the young Duke of Berwick, what must Peregrine
do but argue in high praise of that youth, whom he had several times
seen and admired. And when not a gentleman in the neighbourhood
chose to greet the intruder when he arrived as governor of
Portsmouth, Peregrine actually rode in to see him, and dined with
him. Words cannot express the Major's anger and shame at such
consorting with a person, whom alike, on account of parentage,
religion, and education, he regarded as a son of perdition. Yet
Peregrine would only coolly reply that he knew many a Protestant who
would hardly compare favourably with young Berwick.

It was an anxious period that spring of 1688. The order to read the
King's Declaration of Indulgence from the pulpit had come as a
thunder-clap upon the clergy. The English Church had only known
rest for twenty-eight years, and now, by this unconstitutional
assumption of prerogative, she seemed about to be given up to be the
prey of Romanists on the one hand and Nonconformists on the other;
though for the present the latter were so persuaded that the
Indulgence was merely a disguised advance of Rome that they were not
at all grateful, expecting, as Mr. Horncastle observed, only to be
the last devoured, and he was as much determined as was Dr. Woodford
not to announce it from his pulpit, whatever might be the
consequence; the latter thus resigning all hopes of promotion.

News letters, public and private, were eagerly scanned. Though the
diocesan, Bishop Mew, took no active part in the petition called a
libel, being an extremely aged man, the imprisonment of Ken, so
deeply endeared to Hampshire hearts when Canon of Winchester and
Rector of Brighstone, and with the Bloody Assize and the execution
of Alice Lisle fresh in men's memories, there could not but be
extreme anxiety.

In the midst arrived the tidings that a son had been born to the
king--a son instantly baptized by a Roman Catholic priest, and no
doubt destined by James to rivet the fetters of Rome upon the
kingdom, destroying at once the hope of his elder sister's
accession. Loyal Churchmen like the Archfields still hoped,
recollecting how many infants had been born in the royal family only
to die; but at Oakwood the Major and his chaplain shook their heads,
and spoke of warming pans, to the vehement displeasure of Peregrine,
who was sure to respond that the Queen was an angel, and that the
Whigs credited every one with their own sly tricks.

The Major groaned, and things seemed to have reached a pass very
like open enmity between father and son, though Peregrine still
lived at home, and reports were rife that the year of mourning for
his brother being expired, he was, as soon as he came of age, to be
married to Mistress Martha Browning, and have an establishment of
his own at Emsworth.

Under these circumstances, it was with much satisfaction that Dr.
Woodford said to his niece: "Child, here is an excellent offer for
you. Lady Russell, who you know has returned to live at Stratton,
has heard you mentioned by Lady Mildmay. She has just married her
eldest daughter, and needs a companion to the other, and has been
told of you as able to speak French and Italian, and otherwise well
trained. What! do you not relish the proposal?"

"Why, sir, would not my entering such a house do you harm at Court,
and lessen your chance of preferment?"

"Think not of _that_, my child."

"Besides," added Anne, "since Lady Oglethorpe has written, it would
not be fitting to engage myself elsewhere before hearing from her
again."

"You think so, Anne. Lady Russell's would be a far safer, better
home for you than the Court."

Anne knew it, but the thought of that widowed home depressed her.
It might, she thought, be as dull as Oakwood, and there would be
infinite chances of preferment at Court. What she said, however,
was: "It was by my mother's wish that I applied to Lady
Oglethorpe."

"That is true, child. Yet I cannot but believe that if she had
known of Lady Russell's offer, she would gladly and thankfully have
accepted it."

So said the secret voice within the girl herself, but she did not
yet yield to it. "Perhaps she would, sir," she answered, "if the
other proposal were not made. 'Tis a Whig household though."

"A Whig household is a safer one than a Popish one," answered the
Doctor. "Lady Russell is, by all they tell me, a very saint upon
earth."

Shall it be owned? Anne thought of Oakwood, and was not attracted
towards a saint upon earth. "How soon was the answer to be given?"
she asked.

"I believe she would wish you to meet her at Winchester next week,
when, if you pleased her, you might return with her to Stratton."

The Doctor hoped that Lady Oglethorpe's application might fail, but
before the week was over she forwarded the definite appointment of
Mistress Anne Jacobina Woodford as one of the rockers of his Royal
Highness the Prince of Wales, his Majesty having been graciously
pleased to remember her father's services and his own sponsorship.
"If your friends consider the office somewhat beneath you," wrote
Lady Oglethorpe, "it is still open to you to decline it."

"Oh no; I would certainly not decline it!" cried Anne. "I could not
possibly do so; could I, sir?"

"Lady Oglethorpe says you might," returned the Doctor; "and for my
part, niece, I should prefer the office of a gouvernante to that of
a rocker."

"Ah, but it is to a Prince!" said Anne. "It is the way to something
further."

"And what may that something further be? That is the question,"
said her uncle. "I will not control you, my child, for the
application to this Court lady was by the wish of your good mother,
who knew her well, but I own that I should be far more at rest on
your account if you were in a place of less temptation."

"The Court is very different from what it was in the last King's
time," pleaded Anne.

"In some degree it may be; but on the other hand, the influence
which may have purified it is of the religion that I fear may be a
seduction."

"Oh no, never, uncle; nothing could make me a Papist."

"Do not be over confident, Anne. Those who run into temptation are
apt to be left to themselves."

"Indeed, sir, I cannot think that the course my mother shaped for me
can be a running into temptation."

"Well, Anne, as I say, I cannot withstand you, since it was your
mother who requested Lady Oglethorpe's patronage for you, though I
tell you sincerely that I believe that had the two courses been set
before her she would have chosen the safer and more private one.

"Nay but, dear sir," still pleaded the maiden, "what would become of
your chances of preferment if it were known that you had placed me
with Lord Russell's widow in preference to the Queen?"

"Let not that weigh with you one moment, child. I believe that no
staunch friend of our Protestant Church will be preferred by his
Majesty; nay, while the Archbishop and my saintly friend of Bath and
Wells are persecuted, I should be ashamed to think of promotion.
Spurn the thought from you, child."

"Nay, 'twas only love for you, dear uncle."

"I know it, child. I am not displeased, only think it over, and
pray over it, since the post will not go out until to-morrow."

Anne did think, but not quite as her uncle intended. The
remembrance of the good-natured young Princesses, the large stately
rooms, the brilliant dresses, the radiance of wax lights, had
floated before her eyes ever since her removal from Chelsea to the
quieter regions of Winchester, and she had longed to get back to
them. She really loved her uncle, and whatever he might say, she
longed to push his advancement, and thought his unselfish abnegation
the greater reason for working for him; and in spite of knowing well
that it was only a dull back-stair appointment, she could look to
the notice of Princess Anne, when once within her reach, and
further, with the confidence of youth, believed that she had that
within her which would make her way upwards, and enable her to
confer promotion, honour, and dignity, on all her friends. Her
uncle should be a Bishop, Charles a Peer (fancy his wife being under
obligations to the parson's niece!), Lucy should have a perfect
husband, and an appointment should be found for poor Peregrine which
his father could not gainsay. It was her bounden duty not to throw
away such advantages; besides loyalty to her Royal godfather could
not permit his offer to be rejected, and her mother, when writing to
Lady Oglethorpe, must surely have had some such expectation. Nor
should she be entirely cut off from her uncle, who was a Royal
chaplain; and this was some consolation to the good Doctor when he
found her purpose fixed, and made arrangements for her to travel up
to town in company with Lady Worsley of Gatcombe, whom she was to
meet at Southampton on the 1st of July.

Meantime the Doctor did his best to arm his niece against the
allurements to Romanism that he feared would be held out. Lady
Oglethorpe and other friends had assured him of the matronly care of
Lady Powys and Lady Strickland to guard their department from all
evil; but he did fear these religious influences and Anne, resolute
to resist all, perhaps not afraid of the conflict, was willing to
arm herself for defence, and listened readily. She was no less
anxious to provide for her uncle's comfort in his absence, and many
small matters of housewifery that had stood over for some time were
now to be purchased, as well as a few needments for her own outfit,
although much was left for the counsel of her patroness in the
matter of garments.

Accordingly her uncle rode in with her to Portsmouth on a shopping
expedition, and as the streets of the seaport were scarcely safe for
a young woman without an escort, he carried a little book in his
pocket wherewith he beguiled the time that she spent in the
selection of his frying-pans, fire-irons, and the like, and her own
gloves and kerchiefs. They dined at the 'ordinary' at the inn, and
there Dr. Woodford met his great friends Mr. Stanbury of Botley, and
Mr. Worsley of Gatcombe, in the Isle of Wight, who both, like him,
were opposed to the reading of the Declaration of Indulgence, as
unconstitutional, and deeply anxious as to the fate of the greatly
beloved Bishop of Bath and Wells. It was inevitable that they
should fall into deep and earnest council together, and when dinner
was over they agreed to adjourn to the house of a friend learned in
ecclesiastical law to hunt up the rights of the case, leaving Anne
to await them in a private room at the Spotted Dog, shown to her by
the landlady.

Anne well knew what such a meeting betided, and with a certain
prevision, had armed herself with some knotting, wherewith she sat
down in a bay window overlooking the street, whence she could see
market-women going home with empty baskets, pigs being reluctantly
driven down to provision ships in the harbour, barrels of biscuit,
salt meat, or beer, being rolled down for the same purpose, sailors
in loose knee-breeches, and soldiers in tall peaked caps and cross-
belts, and officers of each service moving in different directions.
She sat there day-dreaming, feeling secure in her loneliness, and
presently saw a slight figure, daintily clad in gray and black, who
catching her eye made an eager gesture, doffing his plumed hat and
bowing low to her. She returned his salute, and thought he passed
on, but in another minute she was startled to find him at her side,
exclaiming: "This is the occasion I have longed and sought for,
Mistress Anne; I bless and thank the fates."

"I am glad to see you once more before I depart," said Anne, holding
out her hand as frankly as she could to the old playfellow whom she
always thought ill-treated, but whom she could never meet without a
certain shudder.

"Then it is true?" he exclaimed.

"Yes; I am to go up with Lady Worsley from Southampton next week."

"Ah!" he cried, "but must that be?" and she felt his strange power,
so that she drew into herself and said haughtily--

"My dear mother wished me to be with her friends, nor can the King's
appointment be neglected, though of course I am extremely grieved to
go."

"And you are dazzled with all these gewgaws of Court life, no
doubt?"

"I shall not be much in the way of gewgaws just yet," said Anne
drily. "It will be dull enough in some back room of Whitehall or
St. James's."

"Say you so. You will wish yourself back--you, the lady of my
heart--mine own good angel! Hear me. Say but the word, and your
home will be mine, to say nothing of your own most devoted servant."

"Hush, hush, sir! I cannot hear this," said Anne, anxiously
glancing down the street in hopes of seeing her uncle approaching.

"Nay, but listen! This is my only hope--my only chance--I must
speak--you doom me to you know not what if you will not hear me!"

"Indeed, sir, I neither will nor ought!"

"Ought! Ought! Ought you not to save a fellow-creature from
distraction and destruction? One who has loved and looked to you
ever since you and that saint your mother lifted me out of the
misery of my childhood."

Then as she looked softened he went on: "You, you are my one hope.
No one else can lift me out of the reach of the demon that has beset
me even since I was born."

"That is profane," she said, the more severe for the growing
attraction of repulsion.

"What do I care? It is true! What was I till you and your mother
took pity on the wild imp? My old nurse said a change would come to
me every seven years. That blessed change came just seven years
ago. Give me what will make a more blessed--a more saving change--
or there will be one as much for the worse."

"But--I could not. No! you must see for yourself that I could not--
even if I would," she faltered, really pitying now, and unwilling to
give more pain than she could help.

"Could not? It should be possible. I know how to bring it about.
Give me but your promise, and I will make you mine--ay, and I will
make myself as worthy of you as man can be of saint-like maid."

"No--no! This is very wrong--you are pledged already--"

"No such thing--believe no such tale. My promise has never been
given to that grim hag of my father's choice--no, nor should be
forced from me by the rack. Look you here. Let me take this hand,
call in the woman of the house, give me your word, and my father
will own his power to bind me to Martha is at an end."

"Oh, no! It would be a sin--never. Besides--" said Anne, holding
her hands tightly clasped behind her in alarm, lest against her will
she should let them be seized, and trying to find words to tell him
how little she felt disposed to trust her heart and herself to one
whom she might indeed pity, but with a sort of shrinking as from
something not quite human. Perhaps he dreaded her 'besides'--for he
cut her short.

"It would save ten thousand greater sins. See, here are two ways
before us. Either give me your word, your precious word, go silent
to London, leave me to struggle it out with my father and your uncle
and follow you. Hope and trust will be enough to bear me through
the battle without, and within deafen the demon of my nature, and
render me patient of my intolerable life till I have conquered and
can bring you home."

Her tongue faltered as she tried to say such a secret unsanctioned
engagement would be treachery, but he cut off the words.

"You have not heard me out. There is another way. I know those who
will aid me. We can meet in early dawn, be wedded in one of these
churches in all secrecy and haste, and I would carry you at once to
my uncle, who, as you well know, would welcome you as a daughter.
Or, better still, we would to those fair lands I have scarce seen,
but where I could make my way with sword or pen with you to inspire
me. I have the means. My uncle left this with me. Speak! It is
death or life to me."

This last proposal was thoroughly alarming, and Anne retreated,
drawing herself to her full height, and speaking with the dignity
that concealed considerable terror.

"No, indeed, sir. You ought to know better than to utter such
proposals. One who can make such schemes can certainly obtain no
respect nor regard from the lady he addresses. Let me pass"--for
she was penned up in the bay window--"I shall seek the landlady till
my uncle returns."

"Nay, Mistress Anne, do not fear me. Do not drive me to utter
despair. Oh, pardon me! Nothing but utter desperation could drive
me to have thus spoken; but how can I help using every effort to win
her whose very look and presence is bliss! Nothing else soothes and
calms me; nothing else so silences the demon and wakens the better
part of my nature. Have you no pity upon a miserable wretch, who
will be dragged down to his doom without your helping hand?"

He flung himself on his knee before her, and tried to grasp her
hand.

"Indeed, I am sorry for you, Master Oakshott," said Anne,
compassionate, but still retreating as far as the window would let
her; "but you are mistaken. If this power be in me, which I cannot
quite believe--yes, I see what you want to say, but if I did what I
know to be wrong, I should lose it at once; God's grace can save you
without me."

"I will not ask you to do what you call wrong; no, nor to transgress
any of the ties you respect, you, whose home is so unlike mine; only
tell me that I may have hope, that if I deserve you, I may win you;
that you could grant me--wretched me--a share of your affection."

This was hardest of all; mingled pity and repugnance, truth and
compassion strove within the maiden as well as the strange influence
of those extraordinary eyes. She was almost as much afraid of
herself as of her suitor. At last she managed to say, "I am very
sorry for you; I grieve from my heart for your troubles; I should be
very glad to hear of your welfare and anything good of you, but--"

"But, but--I see--it is mere frenzy in me to think the blighted elf
can aspire to be aught but loathsome to any lady--only, at least,
tell me you love no one else."

"No, certainly not," she said, as if his eyes drew it forcibly from
her.

"Then you cannot hinder me from making you my guiding star--hoping
that if yet I can--"

"There's my uncle!" exclaimed Anne, in a tone of infinite relief.
"Stand up, Mr. Oakshott, compose yourself. Of course I cannot
hinder your thinking about me, if it will do you any good, but there
are better things to think about which would conquer evil and make
you happy more effectually."

He snatched her hand and kissed it, nor did she withhold it, since
she really pitied him, and knew that her uncle was near, and all
would soon be over.

Peregrine dashed away by another door as Dr. Woodford's foot was on
the stairs. "I have ordered the horses," he began. "They told me
young Oakshott was here."

"He was, but he is gone;" and she could not quite conceal her
agitation.

"Crimson cheeks, my young mistress? Ah, the foolish fellow! You do
not care for him, I trust?"

"No, indeed, poor fellow. What, did you know, sir?"

"Know. Yes, truly--and your mother likewise, Anne. It was one
cause of her wishing to send you to safer keeping than mine seems to
be. My young spark made his proposals to us both, though we would
not disturb your mind therewith, not knowing how he would have dealt
with his father, nor viewing him, for all he is heir to Oakwood, as
a desirable match in himself. I am glad to see you have sense and
discretion to be of the same mind, my maid."

"I cannot but grieve for his sad condition, sir," replied Anne, "but
as for anything more--it would make me shudder to think of it--he is
still too like Robin Goodfellow."

"That's my good girl," said her uncle. "And do you know, child,
there are the best hopes for the Bishops. There's a gentleman come
down but now from London, who says 'twas like a triumph as the
Bishops sat in their barge on the way to the Tower; crowds swarming
along the banks, begging for their blessing, and they waving it with
tears in their eyes. The King will be a mere madman if he dares to
touch a hair of their heads. Well, when I was a lad, Bishops were
sent to the Tower by the people; I little thought to live to see
them sent thither by the King."

All the way home Dr. Woodford talked of the trial, beginning perhaps
to regret that his niece must go to the very focus of Roman
influence in England, where there seemed to be little scruple as to
the mode of conversion. Would it be possible to alter her
destination? was his thought, when he rose the next day, but loyalty
stood in the way, and that very afternoon another event happened
which made it evident that the poor girl must leave Portchester as
soon as possible.

She had gone out with him to take leave of some old cottagers in the
village, and he finding himself detained to minister to a case of
unexpected illness, allowed her to go home alone for about a quarter
of a mile along the white sunny road at the foot of Portsdown, with
the castle full in view at one end, and the cottage where he was at
the other. Many a time previously had she trodden it alone, but she
had not reckoned on two officers coming swaggering from a cross road
down the hill, one of them Sedley Archfield, who immediately called
out, "Ha, ha! my pretty maid, no wench goes by without paying toll;"
and they spread their arms across the road so as to arrest her.

"Sir," said Anne, drawing herself up with dignity, "you mistake--"

"Not a whit, my dear; no exemption here;" and there was a horse
laugh, and an endeavour to seize her, as she stepped back, feeling
that in quietness lay her best chance of repelling them, adding--

"My uncle is close by."

"The more cause for haste;" and they began to close upon her. But
at that moment Peregrine Oakshott, leaping from his horse, was among
them, with the cry--

"Dastards! insulting a lady."

"Lady, forsooth! the parson's niece."

In a few seconds--very long seconds to her--her flying feet had
brought her back to the cottage, where she burst in with--"Pardon,
pardon, sir; come quick; there are swords drawn; there will be
bloodshed if you do not come."

He obeyed the summons without further query, for when all men wore
swords the neighbourhood of a garrison were only too liable to such
encounters outside. There was no need for her to gasp out more;
from the very cottage door he could see the need of haste, for the
swords were actually flashing, and the two young men in position to
fight. Anne shook her head, unable to do more than sign her thanks
to the good woman of the cottage, who offered her a seat. She leant
against the door, and watched as her uncle, sending his voice before
him, called on them to desist.

There was a start, then each drew back and held down his weapon, but
with a menacing gesture on one side, a shrug of the shoulders on the
other, which impelled the Doctor to use double speed in the fear
that the parting might be with a challenge reserved.

He was in time to stand warning, and arguing that if he pardoned the
slighting words and condoned the insult to his niece, no one had a
right to exact vengeance; and in truth, whatever were his arguments,
he so dealt with the two young men as to force them into shaking
hands before they separated, though with a contemptuous look on
either side--a scowl from Sedley, a sneer from Peregrine, boding ill
for the future, and making him sigh.

"Ah! sister, sister, you judged aright. Would that I could have
sent the maid sooner away rather than that all this ill blood should
have been bred. Yet I may only be sending her to greater temptation
and danger. But she is a good maiden; God bless her and keep her
here and there, now and for evermore, as I trust He keepeth our good
Dr. Ken in this sore strait. The trial may even now be over. Ah,
my child, here you are! Frightened were you by that rude fellow?
Nay, I believe you were almost equally terrified by him who came to
the rescue. You will soon be out of their reach, my dear."

"Yes, that is one great comfort in going," sighed Anne. One
comfort--yes--though she would not have stayed had the choice been
given her now. And shall the thought be told that flashed over her
and coloured her cheeks with a sort of shame yet of pleasure, "I
surely must have power over men! I know mother would say it is a
terrible danger one way, and a great gift another. I will not
misuse it; but what will it bring me? Or am I only a rustic beauty
after all, who will be nobody elsewhere?"

Still heartily she wished that her rescuer had been any one else in
the wide world. It was almost uncanny that he should have sprung
out of the earth at such a moment.

CHAPTER XIII: THE BONFIRE

"From Eddystone to Berwick bounds,
From Lynn to Milford Bay,
That time of slumber was as
Bright and busy as the day;
For swift to east and swift to west
The fiery herald sped,
High on St. Michael's Mount it shone:
It shone on Beachy Head."

MACAULAY.

Doctor Woodford and his niece had not long reached their own door
when the clatter of a horse's hoofs was heard, and Charles Archfield
was seen, waving his hat and shouting 'Hurrah!' before he came near
enough to speak,

"Good news, I see!" said the Doctor.

"Good news indeed! Not guilty! Express rode from Westminster Hall
with the news at ten o'clock this morning. All acquitted.
Expresses could hardly get away for the hurrahing of the people.
Hurrah! hurrah! hurrah!" cried the young man, throwing up his hat,
while Doctor Woodford, taking off his own, gave graver, deeper
thanks that justice was yet in England, that these noble and
honoured confessors were safe, and that the King had been saved from
further injustice and violence to the Church.

"We are to have a bonfire on Portsdown hill," added Charles. "They
will be all round the country, in the Island, and everywhere. My
father is rid one way to spread the tidings, and give orders. I'm
going on into Portsmouth, to see after tar barrels. You'll be
there, sir, and you, Anne?" There was a moment's hesitation after
the day's encounters, but he added, "My mother is going, and my
little Madam, and Lucy. They will call for you in the coach if you
will be at Ryder's cottage at nine o'clock. It will not be dark
enough to light up till ten, so there will be time to get a noble
pile ready. Come, Anne, 'tis Lucy's last chance of seeing you--so
strange as you have made yourself of late."

This plea decided Anne, who had been on the point of declaring that
she should have an excellent view from the top of the keep.
However, not only did she long to see Lucy again, but the enthusiasm
was contagious, and there was an attraction in the centre of popular
rejoicing that drew both her and her uncle, nor could there be a
doubt of her being sufficiently protected when among the Archfield
ladies. So the arrangement was accepted, and then there was the
cry--

"Hark! the Havant bells! Ay! and the Cosham! Portsmouth is pealing
out. That's Alverstoke. They know it there. A salute! Another."

"Scarce loyal from the King's ships," said the Doctor, smiling.

"Nay, 'tis only loyalty to rejoice that the King can't make a fool
of himself. So my father says," rejoined Charles.

And that seemed to be the mood of all England. When Anne and her
uncle set forth in the summer sunset light the great hill above them
was dark with the multitudes thronging around the huge pyre rising
in the midst. They rested for some minutes at the cottage indicated
before the arrival of Sir Philip, who rode up accompanying the coach
in which his three ladies were seated, and which was quite large
enough to receive Dr. Woodford and Mistress Anne. Charles was in
the throng, in the midst of most of the younger gentlemen of the
neighbourhood, and a good many of the naval and military officers,
directing the arrangement of the pile.

What a scene it was, as seen even from the windows of the coach
where the ladies remained, for the multitude of sailors, soldiers,
town and village people, though all unanimous, were far too
tumultuous for them to venture beyond their open door, especially as
little Mrs. Archfield was very far from well, and nothing but her
eagerness for amusement could have brought her hither, and of course
she could not be left. Probably she knew as little of the real
bearings of the case or the cause of rejoicing as did the boys who
pervaded everything with their squibs, and were only restrained from
firing them in the faces of the horses by wholesome fear of the big
whips of the coachman and outriders who stood at the horses' heads.

It was hardly yet dark when the match was put to the shavings, and
to the sound of the loud 'Hurrahs!' and cries of 'Long live the
Bishops!' 'Down with the Pope!' the flame kindled, crackled, and
leapt up, while a responsive fire was seen on St. Catherine's Down
in the Isle of Wight, and northward, eastward, westward, on every
available point, each new light greeted by fresh acclamations, as it
shone out against the summer night sky, while the ships in the
harbour showed their lights, reflected in the sea, as the sky grew
darker. Then came a procession of sailors and other rough folk,
bearing between poles a chair with a stuffed figure with a kind of
tiara, followed by others with scarlet hats and capes, and with
reiterated shouts of 'Down with the Pope!' these were hurled into
the fire with deafening hurrahs, their more gorgeous trappings being
cleverly twitched off at the last moment, as part of the properties
for the 5th of November.

Little Mrs. Archfield clapped her hands and screamed with delight as
each fresh blaze shot up, and chattered with all her might,
sometimes about some lace and perfumes which she wanted Anne to
procure for her in London at the sign of the Flower Pot, sometimes
grumbling at her husband having gone off to the midst of the party
closest to the fire, "Just like Mr. Archfield, always leaving her to
herself," but generally very well amused, especially when a group of
gentlemen, officers, and county neighbours gathered round the open
door talking to the ladies within.

Peregrine was there with his hands in his pockets, and a queer
ironical smile writhing his features. He was asked if his father
and brother were present.

"Not my father," he replied. "He has a logical mind. Martha is up
here with her guardian, and I am keeping out of her way, and my
brother is full in the thick of the fray. A bonfire is a bonfire to
most folks, were it to roast their grandsire!"

"Oh, fie, Mr. Oakshott, how you do talk!" laughed Mrs. Archfield.

"Nay, but you rejoice in the escape of the good Bishops," put in
Lucy.

"For what?" asked Peregrine. "For refusing to say live and let
live?"

"Not against letting _live_, but against saying so
unconstitutionally, my young friend," said Dr. Woodford, "or
tyrannising over our consciences."

Generally Peregrine was more respectful to Dr. Woodford than to any
one else; but there seemed to be a reckless bitterness about him on
that night, and he said, "I marvel with what face those same Eight
Reverend Seigniors will preach against the French King."

"Sir," thrust in Sedley Archfield, "I am not to hear opprobrious
epithets applied to the Bishops."

"What was the opprobrium?" lazily demanded Peregrine, and in spite
of his unpopularity, the laugh was with him. Sedley grew more
angry.

"You likened them to the French King--"

"The most splendid monarch in Europe," said Peregrine coolly.

"A Frenchman!" quoth one of the young squires with withering
contempt.

"He has that ill fortune, sir," said Peregrine. "Mayhap he would be
sensible of the disadvantage, if he evened himself with some of my
reasonable countrymen."

"Do you mean that for an insult, sir?" exclaimed Sedley Archfield,
striding forward.

"As you please," said Peregrine. "To me it had the sound of
compliment."

"Oh la! they'll fight," cried Mrs. Archfield. "Don't let them!
Where's the Doctor? Where's Sir Philip?"

"Hush, my dear," said Lady Archfield; "these gentlemen would not
fall out close to us."

Dr. Woodford was out of sight, having been drawn into controversy
with a fellow-clergyman on the limits of toleration. Anne looked
anxiously for him, but with provoking coolness Peregrine presently
said, "There's no crowd near, and if you will step out, the fires on
the farther hills are to be seen well from the knoll hard by."

He spoke chiefly to Anne, but even if she had not a kind of
shrinking from trusting herself with him in this strange wild scene,
she would have been prevented by Mrs. Archfield's eager cry--

"Oh, I'll come, let me come! I'm so weary of sitting here. Thank
you, Master Oakshott."

Lady Archfield's remonstrance was lost as Peregrine helped the
little lady out, and there was nothing for it but to follow her, as
close as might be, as she hung on her cavalier's arm chattering, and
now and then giving little screams of delight or alarm. Lady
Archfield and her daughter each was instantly squired, but Mistress
Woodford, a nobody, was left to keep as near them as she could, and
gaze at the sparks of light of the beacons in the distance, thinking
how changed the morrow would be to her.

Presently a figure approached, and Charles Archfield's voice said,
"Is that you, Anne? Did I hear my wife's voice?"

"Yes, she is there."

"And with that imp of evil! I would his own folk had him!" muttered
Charles, dashing forward with "How now, madam? you were not to leave
the coach!"

She laughed exultingly. "Ha, sir! see what comes of leaving me to
better cavaliers, while you run after your fire! I should have seen
nothing but for Master Oakshott."

"Come with me now," said Charles; "you ought not to be standing here
in the dew."

"Ha, ha! what a jealous master," she said; but she put her arm into
his, saying with a courtesy, "Thank you, Master Oakshott, lords must
be obeyed. I should have been still buried in the old coach but for
you."

Peregrine fell back to Anne. "That blaze is at St. Helen's," he
began. "That--what! will you not wait a moment?"

"No, no! They will want to be going home."

"And have you forgotten that it is only just over Midsummer? This
is the week of my third seventh--the moment for change. O Anne!
make it a change for the better. Say the word, and the die will be
cast. All is ready! Come!"

He tried to take her hand, but the vehemence of his words, spoken
under his breath, terrified her, and with a hasty "No, no! you know
not what you talk of," she hastened after her friends, and was glad
to find herself in the safe haven of the interior of the coach.

Ere long they drove down the hill, and at the place of parting were
set down, the last words in Anne's ears being Mrs. Archfield's
injunctions not to forget the orange flower-water at the sign of the
Flower Pot, drowning Lucy's tearful farewells.

As they walked away in the moonlight a figure was seen in the
distance.

"Is that Peregrine Oakshott?" asked the Doctor. "That young man is
in a desperate mood, ready to put a quarrel on any one. I hope no
harm will come of it."

CHAPTER XIV: GATHERING MOUSE-EAR

"I heard the groans, I marked the tears,
I saw the wound his bosom bore."

SCOTT.

After such an evening it was not easy to fall asleep, and Anne
tossed about, heated, restless, and uneasy, feeling that to remain
at home was impossible, yet less satisfied about her future
prospects, and doubtful whether she had not done herself harm by
attending last night's rejoicings, and hoping that nothing would
happen to reveal her presence there.

She was glad that the night was not longer, and resolved to take
advantage of the early morning to fulfil a commission of Lady
Oglethorpe, whose elder children, Lewis and Theophilus, had the
whooping-cough. Mouse-ear, namely, the little sulphur-coloured
hawk-weed, was, and still is, accounted a specific, and Anne had
been requested to bring a supply--a thing easily done, since it grew
plentifully in the court of the castle.

She dressed herself in haste, made some of her preparations for the
journey, and let herself out of the house, going first for one last
look at her mother's green grave in the dewy churchyard, and
gathering from it a daisy, which she put into her bosom, then in the
fair morning freshness, and exhilaration of the rising sun, crossing
the wide tilt-yard, among haycocks waiting to be tossed, and
arriving at the court within, filling her basket between the
churchyard and the gateway tower and keep, when standing up for a
moment she was extremely startled to see Peregrine Oakshott's
unmistakable figure entering at the postern of the court.

With vague fears of his intentions, and instinctive terror of
meeting him alone, heightened by that dread of his power, she flew
in at the great bailey tower door, hoping that he had not seen her,
but tolerably secure that even if he had, and should pursue her, she
was sufficiently superior in knowledge of the stairs and passages to
baffle him, and make her way along the battlements to the tower at
the corner of the court nearest the parsonage, where there was a
turret stair by which she could escape.

Up the broken stairs she went, shutting behind her every available
door in the chambers and passages, but not as quickly as she wished,
since attention to her feet was needful in the ruinous state of
steps and walls. Through those massive walls she could hear nothing
distinctly, but she fancied voices and a cry, making her seek more
intricate windings, nor did she dare to look out till she had gained
a thick screen of bushy ivy at the corner of the turret, where a
little door opened on the broad summit of the battlemented wall.

Then, what horror was it that she beheld? Or was it a dream? She
even passed her hands over her face and looked again. Peregrine and
Charles, yes, it was Charles Archfield, were fighting with swords in
the court beneath. She gave a shriek, in a wild hope of parting
them, but at that instant she saw Peregrine fall, and with the
impulse of rushing to aid she hurried down, impeded however by
stumbles, and by the doors, she herself had shut, and when she
emerged, she saw only Charles, standing like one dazed and white as
death.

"O Mr Archfield! where is he? What have you done?" The young man
pointed to the opening of the vault. Then, speaking with an effort,
"He was quite dead; my sword went through him. He forced it on me--
he was pursuing you. I withstood him--and--"

He gasped heavily as the words came one by one. She trembled
exceedingly, and would have looked into the vault, with, "Are you
quite sure?" but he grasped her hand and withheld her.

"Only too sure! Yes, I have done it! It could not be helped. I
would give myself up at once, but, Anne, there is my wife. They
tell me any shock would kill her as she is now. I should be double
murderer. Will you keep the secret, Anne, always my friend? And
'twas for you."

"Indeed, indeed, I will not betray you. I go away in two hours,"
said Anne; and he caught her hand. "But oh!" and she pointed to the
blood on the grass, then with sudden thought, "Heap the hay over
it," running to fill her arms with the lately-cut grass.

He mechanically did the same, and then they stood for a moment, awe-
stricken.

"God forgive me!" said the poor young man. "How to hide it I hardly
know, but for _her_ sake, ah--'twas that brought me here. She could
not rest last night till I had promised to be here early enough in
the morning to give you a piece of sarcenet to be matched in London.
Where is it? Ah! I forget. It seems to be ages ago that she was
insisting that I should ride over so as to be in time."

"Lucy must write," said Anne, "O Charley! wipe that dreadful sword,
look like yourself. I am going in a couple of hours. There is no
fear of me! but oh! that you should have done such a thing! and
through me!"

"Hush! hush! don't talk. I must be gone ere folks are about. My
horse is outside." He wrung her hand and kissed it, forgetting to
give her the pattern, and Anne, still stunned, walked back to the
parsonage, her one thought how to control herself so as to guard
Charles's secret.

It must be remembered that in the generation succeeding that which
had fought a long civil war, and when duels were common assertions
of honour and self-respect among young gentlemen, homicide was not
so exceptional and heinous an offence in ordinary eyes as when a
higher value has come to be set on life, and acts of violence are
far less frequent.

Charles had drawn his sword in fair fight, and in her own defence,
and thus it was natural that Anne Woodford should think of his deed,
certainly with a shudder, but with more of pity than of horror, and
with gratitude that made her feel bound to do her utmost to guard
him from the consequences; also there was a sense of relief, and
perhaps a feeling as if the victim were scarcely a human creature
like others. It never occurred to her till some time after to
recollect it would have had an unpleasant sound that she had been
the occasion of such an 'unseemly brawl' between two young men, one
of them a married man. When the thought occurred to her it made the
blood rash hotly to her cheeks.

It was well for her that the pain of leaving home and the bustle of
preparation concealed that she had suffered a great shock, and
accounted for her not being able to taste any breakfast beyond a
draught of milk. Her ears were intent all the time to perceive any
token whether the haymakers had come into the court and had
discovered any trace of the ghastly thing in the vault, and she
hardly heard the kind words of her uncle or the coaxings of his old
housekeeper. She dreaded especially the sight of Hans, so fondly
attached to his master's nephew, and it was with a sense of infinite
relief--instead of the tender grief otherwise natural--that she was
seated in the boat for Portsmouth, and her uncle believing her to be
crying, left her undisturbed till she had composed herself to wear
the front that she knew was needful, however her heart might throb
beneath it, and as their boat threaded its way through the ships,
even then numerous, she looked wistfully up at the tall tower of the
castle, with earnest prayers for the living, and a longing she durst
not utter, to ask her uncle whether it were right to pray for the
poor strange, struggling soul, always so cruelly misunderstood, and
now so summarily dismissed from the world of trial.

Yet presently there was a revulsion of feeling as she was roused
from her meditations by the coxswain's answer to her uncle, who had
asked what was a smart, swift little smack, which after receiving
something from a boat, began stretching her wings and making all
sail for the Isle of Wight.

The men looked significant and hesitated.

"Smugglers, eh? Traders in French brandy?" asked the Doctor.

"Well, your reverence, so they says. They be a rough lot out there
by at the back of the Island."

"There would be small harm in letting a poor man get a drink of
spirits cheap to warm his heart," said one of the other men; "but
they say as how 'tis a very nest of 'em out there, and that's how no
one can ever pitch on the highwaymen, such as robbed Farmer Vine
t'other day a coming home from market."

"They do say," added the other, "that there's them as ought to know
better that is thick with them. There's that young master up at
Oakwood--that crooked slip as they used to say was a changeling--
gets out o' window o' nights and sails with them."

"He has nought to do with the robberies, they say," added the
coxswain; "but I could tell of many a young spark who has gone out
with the fair traders for the sport's sake, and because gentle folk
don't know what to do with their time."

"And they do say the young chap is kept uncommon tight at home."

Here the sight of a vessel of war coming in changed the topic, but
it had given Anne something more to think of. Peregrine had spoken
of means arranged for making her his own. Could that smuggling
yacht have anything to do with them? He could hardly have reckoned
on meeting her alone in the morning, but he might have attempted to
find her thus--or failing that, he might have run down the boat. If
so, she had a great deliverance to be thankful for, and Charles's
timely appearance had been a great blessing. But Peregrine! poor
Peregrine! it became doubly terrible that he should have perished on
the eve of such a deed. It was cruel to entertain such thoughts of
the dead, yet it was equally impossible not to feel comfort in being
rid for ever of one who had certainly justified the vague alarm
which he had always excited in her. She could not grieve for him
now that the first shock was over, but she must suppress all tokens
of her extreme anxiety on account of Charles Archfield.

Thus she was landed at Portsmouth, and walked up the street to the
Spotted Dog, where Lady Worsley was taking an early noonchine before
starting for London, having crossed from the little fishing village
of Ryde. Here Anne parted with her uncle, who promised an early
letter, though she could hardly restrain a shudder at the thought of
the tidings that it might contain.

CHAPTER XV: NEWS FROM FAREHAM

"My soul its secret hath, my life too hath its mystery.
Hopeless the evil is, I have not told its history."

JEAN INGELOW.

Lady Worsley was a handsome, commanding old dame, who soon made her
charge feel the social gulf between a county magnate and a
clergyman's niece. She decidedly thought that Mistress Anne
Jacobina held her head too high for her position, and was, moreover,
conceited of an unfortunate amount of good looks.

Therefore the good lady did her best to repress these dangerous
tendencies by making the girl sit on the back seat with two maids,
and uttering long lectures on humility, modesty, and discretion
which made the blood of the sea-captain's daughter boil with
indignation.

Yet she always carried with her the dread of being pursued and
called upon to accuse Charles Archfield of Peregrine's death. It
was a perpetual cloud, dispersed, indeed, for a time by the events
of the day, but returning at night, when not only was the combat
acted over again, but when she fell asleep it was only to be pursued
by Peregrine through endless vaulted dens of darkness, or, what was
far worse, to be trying to hide a stream of blood that could never
be stanched.

It was no wonder that she looked pale in the morning, and felt so
tired and dejected as to make her sensible that she was cast loose
from home and friends when no one troubled her with remarks or
inquiries such as she could hardly have answered. However, when, on
the evening of the second day's journey, Anne was set down at Sir
Theophilus Oglethorpe's house at Westminster, she met with a very
different reception.

Lady Oglethorpe, a handsome, warm-hearted Irish woman, met her at
once in the hall with outstretched hands, and a kiss on each cheek.

"Come in, my dear, my poor orphan, the daughter of one who was very
dear to me! Ah, how you have grown! I could never have thought
this was the little Anne I recollect. You shall come up to your
chamber at once, and rest you, and make ready for supper, by the
time Sir Theophilus comes in from attending the King."

Anne found herself installed in a fresh-smelling wainscotted room,
where a glass of wine and some cake was ready for her, and where she
made herself ready, feeling exhilarated in spirits as she performed
her toilette, putting on her black evening dress, and refreshing the
curls of her brown hair. It was a simple dress of deep mourning,
but it became her well, and the two or three gentlemen who had come
in to supper with Sir Theophilus evidently admired her greatly, and
complimented her on having a situation at Court, which was all that
Lady Oglethorpe mentioned.

"Child," she said afterwards, when they were in private, "if I had
known what you looked like I would have sought a different position
for you. But, there, to get one's foot--were it but the toe of
one's shoe--in at Court is the great point after all, the rest must
come after. I warrant me you are well educated too. Can you speak
French?"

"Oh yes, madam, and Italian, and dance and play on the spinnet. I
was with two French ladies at Winchester every winter who taught
such things."

"Well, well, mayhap we may get you promoted to a sub-governess's
place--though your religion is against you. You are not a Catholic--
eh?"

"No, your ladyship."

"That's the only road to favour nowadays, though for the name of the
thing they may have a Protestant or two. You are the King's
godchild too, so he will expect it the more from you. However, we
may find a better path. You have not left your heart in the
country, eh?"

Anne blushed and denied it.

"You will be mewed up close enough in the nursery," ran on Lady
Oglethorpe. "Lady Powys keeps close discipline there, and I expect
she will be disconcerted to see how fine a fish I have brought to
her net; but we will see--we will see how matters go. But, my dear,
have you no coloured clothes? There is no appearing in the Royal
household in private mourning. It might daunt the Prince's spirits
in his cradle!" and she laughed, though Anne felt much annoyed at
thus disregarding her mother, as well as at the heavy expense.
However, there was no help for it; the gowns and laces hidden in the
bottom of her mails were disinterred, and the former were for the
most part condemned, so that she had to submit to a fresh outfit, in
which Lady Oglethorpe heartily interested herself, but which drained
the purse that the Canon had amply supplied.

These arrangements were not complete when the first letter from home
arrived, and was opened with a beating heart, and furtive glances as
of one who feared to see the contents, but they were by no means
what she expected.

I hope you have arrived safely in London, and that you are not
displeased with your first taste of life in a Court. Neither
town nor country is exempt from sorrow and death. I was summoned
only on the second day after your departure to share in the
sorrows at Archfield, where the poor young wife died early on
Friday morning, leaving a living infant, a son, who, I hope, may
prove a blessing to them, if he is spared, which can scarcely be
expected. The poor young man, and indeed all the family, are in
the utmost distress, and truly there were circumstances that
render the event more than usually deplorable, and for which he
blames himself exceedingly, even to despair. It appears that the
poor young gentlewoman wished to add some trifle to the numerous
commissions with which she was entrusting you on the night of the
bonfire, and that she could not be pacified except by her husband
undertaking to ride over to give the patterns and the orders to
you before your setting forth. You said nothing of having seen
him--nor do I see how it was possible that you could have done
so, seeing that you only left your chamber just before the
breakfast that you never tasted, my poor child. He never
returned till long after noon, and what with fretting after him,
and disappointment, that happened which Lady Archfield had always
apprehended, and the poor fragile young creature worked herself
into a state which ended before midnight in the birth of a puny
babe, and her own death shortly after. She wanted two months of
completing her sixteenth year, and was of so frail a constitution
that Dr. Brown had never much hope of her surviving the birth of
her child. It was a cruel thing to marry her thus early, ungrown
in body or mind, but she had no one to care for her before she
was brought hither. The blame, as I tell Sir Philip, and would
fain persuade poor Charles, is really with those who bred her up
so uncontrolled as to be the victim of her humours; but the
unhappy youth will listen to no consolation. He calls himself a
murderer, shuts himself up, and for the most part will see and
speak to no one, but if forced by his father's command to unlock
his chamber door, returns at once to sit with his head hidden in
his arms crossed upon the table, and if father, mother, or sister
strive to rouse him and obtain answer from him, he will only
murmur forth, "I should only make it worse if I did." It is
piteous to see a youth so utterly overcome, and truly I think his
condition is a greater distress to our good friends than the loss
of the poor young wife. They asked him what name he would have
given to his child, but all the answer they could get was, "As
you will, only not mine;" and in the enforced absence of my
brother of Fareham I baptized him Philip. The funeral will take
place to-morrow, and Sir Philip proposes immediately after to
take his son to Oxford, and there endeavour to find a tutor of
mature age and of prudence, with whom he may either study at New
College or be sent on the grand tour. It is the only notion that
the poor lad has seemed willing to entertain, as if to get away
from his misery, and I cannot but think it well for him. He is
not yet twenty, and may, as it were, begin life again the wiser
and the better man for his present extreme sorrow. Lady
Archfield is greatly wrapped up in the care of the babe, who, I
fear, is in danger of being killed by overcare, if by nothing
else, though truly all is in the hands of God. I have scarce
quitted the afflicted family since I was summoned to them on
Friday, since Sir Philip has no one else on whom to depend for
comfort or counsel; and if I can obtain the services of Mr. Ellis
from Portsmouth for a few Sundays, I shall ride with him to
Oxford to assist in the choice of a tutor to go abroad with Mr.
Archfield.

One interruption however I had, namely, from Major Oakshott, who
came in great perturbation to ask what was the last I had seen of
his son Peregrine. It appears that the unfortunate young man
never returned home after the bonfire on Portsdown Hill, where
his brother Robert lost sight of him, and after waiting as long
as he durst, returned home alone. It has become known that after
parting with us high words passed between him and Lieutenant
Sedley Archfield, insomuch that after the unhappy fashion of
these times, blood was demanded, and early in the morning Sedley
sent the friend who was to act as second to bear the challenge to
young Oakshott. You can conceive the reception that he was
likely to receive at Oakwood; but it was then discovered that
Peregrine had not been in his bed all night, nor had any one seen
or heard of him. Sedley boasts loudly that the youngster has
fled the country for fear of him, and truly things have that
appearance, although to my mind Peregrine was far from wanting in
spirit or courage. But, as he had not received the cartel, he
might not have deemed his honour engaged to await it, and I
incline to the belief that he is on his way to his uncle in
Muscovy, driven thereto by his dread of the marriage with the
gentlewoman whom he holds in so much aversion. I have striven to
console his father by the assurance that such tidings of him will
surely arrive in due time, but the Major is bitterly grieved, and
is galled by the accusation of cowardice. "He could not even be
true to his own maxims of worldly honour," says the poor
gentleman. "So true it is that only by grace we stand fast."
The which is true enough, but the poor gentleman unwittingly did
his best to make grace unacceptable in his son's eyes. I trust
soon to hear again of you, my dear child. I rejoice that Lady
Oglethorpe is so good to you, and I hope that in the palace you
will guard first your faith and then your discretion. And so
praying always for your welfare, alike spiritual and temporal.--
Your loving uncle, JNO. WOODFORD.

Truly it was well that Anne had secluded herself to read this
letter.

So the actual cause for which poor Charles Archfield had entreated
silence was at an end. The very evil he had apprehended had come to
pass, and she could well understand how, on his return in a horror-
stricken, distracted state of mind, the childish petulance of his
wife had worried him into loss of temper, so that he hardly knew
what he said. And what must not his agony of remorse be? She could
scarcely imagine how he had avoided confessing all as a mere relief
to his mind, but then she reflected that when he called himself a
murderer the words were taken in another sense, and no questions
asked, nor would he be willing to add such grief and shame to his
parents' present burthen, especially as no suspicion existed.

That Peregrine's fate had not been discovered greatly relieved her.
She believed the vault to go down to a considerable depth after a
first platform of stone near the opening, and it was generally
avoided as the haunt of hobgoblins, fairies, or evil beings, so that
no one was likely to be in its immediate neighbourhood after the hay
was carried, so that there might have been nothing to attract any
one to the near neighbourhood and thus lead to the discovery. If
not made by this time, Charles would be far away, and there was
nothing to connect him with the deed. No one save herself had even
known of his having been near the castle that morning. How strange
that the only persons aware of that terrible secret should be so far
separated from one another that they could exchange no confidences;
and each was compelled to absolute silence. For as long as no one
else was suspected, Anne felt her part must be not to betray
Charles, though the bare possibility of the accusation of another
was agony to her.

She wrote her condolences in due form to Fareham, and in due time
was answered by Lucy Archfield. The letter was full of details
about the infant, who seemed to absorb her and her mother, and to be
as likely to live as any child of those days ever was--and it was in
his favour that his grandmother and her old nurse had better notions
of management than most of her contemporaries. In spite of all that
Lucy said of her brother's overwhelming grief, and the melancholy of
thus parting with him, there was a strain of cheerfulness throughout
the letter, betraying that the poor young wife of less than a year
was no very great loss to the peace and comfort of the family. The
letter ended with--

There is a report that Sir Peregrine Oakshott is dead in Muscovy.
Nothing has been heard of that unfortunate young man at Oakwood.
If he be gone in quest of his uncle, I wonder what will become of
him? However, nurse will have it that this being the third
seventh year of his life, the fairies have carried off their
changeling--you remember how she told us the story of his being
changed as an infant, when we were children at Winchester; she
believes it as much as ever, and never let little Philip out of
her sight before he was baptized. I ask her, if the changeling
be gone, where is the true Peregrine? but she only wags her head
in answer.

A day or two later Anne heard from her uncle from Oxford. He was
extremely grieved at the condition of his beloved alma mater, with a
Roman Catholic Master reigning at University College, a doctor from
the Sorbonne and Fellows to match, inflicted by military force on
Magdalen, whose lawful children had been ejected with a violence
beyond anything that the colleges had suffered even in the time of
the Rebellion. If things went on as they were, he pronounced Oxford
would be no better than a Popish seminary: and he had the more
readily induced his old friend to consent to Charles's desire not to
remain there as a student, but to go abroad with Mr. Fellowes, one
of the expelled fellows of Magdalen, a clergyman of mature age, but
a man of the world, who had already acted as a travelling tutor.
Considering that the young widower was not yet twenty, and that all
his wife's wealth would be in his hands, also that his cousin Sedley
formed a dangerous link with the questionable diversions of the
garrison at Portsmouth, both father and friend felt that it was well
that he should be out of reach, and have other occupations for the
present.

Change of scene had, Dr. Woodford said, brightened the poor youth,
and he was showing more interest in passing events, but probably he
would never again be the light-hearted boy they used to know.

Anne could well believe it.

CHAPTER XVI: A ROYAL NURSERY

"The duty that I owe unto your Majesty
I seal upon the lips of this sweet babe."

King Richard III.

It was not till the Queen had moved from St. James's, where her son
had been born, to take up her abode at Whitehall, that Lady
Oglethorpe was considered to be disinfected from her children's
whooping-cough, and could conduct Mistress Anne Jacobina Woodford to
her new situation.

Anne remembered the place from times past, as she followed the lady
up the broad stairs to the state rooms, where the child was daily
carried for inspection by the nation to whom, it was assumed, he was
so welcome, but who, on the contrary, regarded him with the utmost
dislike and suspicion.

Whitehall was, in those days, free to all the world, and though
sentries in the Life-guards' uniform with huge grenadier caps were
posted here and there, every one walked up and down. Members of
Parliament and fine gentlemen in embroidered coats and flowing wigs
came to exchange news; country cousins came to stare and wonder,
some to admire, some to whisper their disbelief in the Prince's
identity; clergy in gown, cassock, and bands came to win what they
could in a losing cause; and one or two other clergy, who were
looked at askance, whose dress had a foreign air, and whose tonsure
could be detected as they threaded their way with quick, gliding
steps to the King's closet.

Lady Oglethorpe, as one to the manner born, made her way through the
midst of this throng in the magnificent gallery, and Anne followed
her closely, conscious of words of admiration and inquiries who she
was. Into the Prince's presence chamber, in fact his day-nursery,
they came, and a sweet and gentle-looking lady met them, and
embraced Lady Oglethorpe, who made known Mistress Woodford to Lady
Strickland, of Sizergh, the second governess, as the fourth rocker
who had been appointed.

"You are welcome, Miss Woodford," said the lady, looking at Anne's
high, handsome head and well-bred action in courtesying, with a
shade of surprise. "You are young, but I trust you are discreet.
There is much need thereof."

Following to a kind of alcove, raised by a step or two, Anne found
herself before a half-circle of ladies and gentlemen round a chair
of state, in front of which stood a nurse, with an infant in her
arms, holding him to be caressed and inspected by the lady on the
throne. Her beautiful soft dark eyes and hair, and an ivory
complexion, with her dignified and graceful bearing, her long,
slender throat and exquisite figure, were not so much concealed as
enhanced by the simple mob cap and 'night-gown,' as it was then the
fashion to call a morning wrapper, which she wore, and Anne's first
impression was that no wonder Peregrine raved about her. Poor
Peregrine! that very thought came like a stab, as, after courtesying
low, she stood at the end of the long room--silent, and observing.

A few gentlemen waited by the opposite door, but not coming far into
the apartment, and Lady Oglethorpe was announced by one of them.
The space was so great that Anne could not hear the words, and she
only saw the gracious smile and greeting as Lady Oglethorpe knelt
and kissed the Queen's hand. After a long conversation between the
mothers, during which Lady Oglethorpe was accommodated with a
cushion, Anne was beckoned forward, and was named to the Queen, who
honoured her with an inclination of the head and a few low murmured
words.

Then there was an announcement of 'His Majesty,' and Anne, following
the general example of standing back with low obeisances, beheld the
tall active figure and dark heavy countenance of her Royal
godfather, under his great black, heavily-curled wig. He returned
Lady Oglethorpe's greeting, and his face lighted up with a pleasant
smile that greatly changed the expression as he took his child into
his arms for a few moments; but the little one began to cry,
whereupon he was carried off, and the King began to consult Lady
Oglethorpe upon the water-gruel on which the poor little Prince was
being reared, and of which she emphatically disapproved.

Before he left the room, however, Lady Oglethorpe took care to
present to him his god-daughter, Mistress Anne Jacobina Woodford,
and very low was the girl's obeisance before him, but with far more
fright and shyness than before the sweet-faced Queen.

"Oh ay!" he said, "I remember honest Will Woodford. He did good
service at Southwold. I wish he had left a son like him. Have you
a brother, young mistress?"

"No, please your Majesty, I am an only child."

"More's the pity," he said kindly, and with a smile brightening his
heavy features. "'Tis too good a breed to die out. You are
Catholic?"

"I am bred in the English Church, so please your Majesty."

His Majesty was evidently less pleased than before, but he only
said, "Ha! and my godchild! We must amend that," and waved her
aside.

The royal interview over, the newcomer was presented to the State
Governess, the Countess of Powys, a fair and gracious matron, who
was, however, almost as far removed from her as the Queen. Then she
was called on to take a solemn oath before the Master of the
Household, of dutiful loyalty to the Prince.

Mrs. Labadie was head nurse as well as being wife to the King's
French valet. She was a kindly, portly Englishwoman, who seemed
wrapped up in her charge, and she greeted her new subordinate in a
friendly way, which, however, seemed strange in one who at home
would have been of an inferior degree, expressed hopes of her
steadiness and discretion, and called to Miss Dunord to show Miss
Woodford her chamber. The abbreviation Miss sounded familiar and
unsuitable, but it had just come into use for younger spinsters,
though officially they were still termed Mistress.

Mistress or Miss Dunord was sallow and gray-eyed, somewhat older
than Anne, and looking thoroughly French, though her English was
perfect. She was entirely dressed in blue and white, and had a
rosary and cross at her girdle. "This way," she said, tripping up a
steep wooden stair. "We sleep above. 'Tis a huge, awkward place.
Her Majesty calls it the biggest and most uncomfortable palace she
ever was in."

Opening a heavy door, she showed a room of considerable size, hung
with faded frayed tapestry, and containing two huge bedsteads, with
four heavy posts, and canopies of wood, as near boxes as could well
be. Privacy was a luxury not ordinarily coveted, and the
arrangement did not surprise Anne, though she could have wished that
on that summer day curtains and tapestry had been less fusty. Two
young women were busy over a dress spread on one of the beds, and
with French ease and grace the guide said, "Here is our new
colleague, Miss Jacobina Woodford. Let me present Miss Hester
Bridgeman and Miss Jane Humphreys."

"Miss Woodford is welcome," said Miss Bridgeman, a keen, brown,
lively, somewhat anxious-looking person, courtesying and holding out
her hand, and her example was followed by Jane Humphreys, a stout,
rosy, commonplace girl.

"Oh! I am glad," this last cried. "Now I shall have a bedfellow."

This Anne was the less sorry for, as she saw that the bed of the
other two was furnished with a holy water stoup and a little shrine
with a waxen Madonna. There was only one looking-glass among the
four, and not much apparatus either for washing or the toilet, but
Miss Bridgeman believed that they would soon go to Richmond, where
things would be more comfortable. Then she turned to consult Miss
Dunord on her endeavour to improve the trimmings of a dress of Miss
Humphreys.

"Yes, I know you are always in Our Lady's colours, Pauline, but you
have a pretty taste, and can convince Jane that rose colour and
scarlet cannot go together."

"My father chose the ribbons," said Jane, as if that were
unanswerable.

"City taste," said Miss Bridgeman.

"They are pretty, very pretty with anything else," observed Pauline,
with more tact. "See, now, with your white embroidered petticoat
and the gray train they are ravishing--and the scarlet coat will
enliven the black."

There was further a little murmur about what a Mr. Hopkins admired,
but it was lost in the arrival of Miss Woodford's mails.

They clustered round, as eager as a set of schoolgirls, over Anne's
dresses. Happily even the extreme of fashion had not then become
ungraceful.

"Her Majesty will not have the loose drapery that folks used to
wear," said Hester Bridgeman.

"No," said Pauline; "it was all very well for those who could
dispose it with an artless negligence, but for some I could name, it
was as though they had tumbled it on with a hay-fork and had their
hair tousled by being tickled in the hay."

"Now we have the tight bodice with plenty of muslin and lace, the
gown open below to show the petticoat," said Hester; "and to my mind
it is more decorous."

"Decorum was not the vogue then," laughed Pauline, "perhaps it will
be now. Oh, what lovely lace! real Flanders, on my word! Where did
you get it, Miss Woodford?"

"It was my mother's."

"And this? Why, 'tis old French point, you should hang it to your
sleeves."

"My Lady Archfield gave it to me in case I should need it."

"Ah! I see you have good friends and are a person of some
condition," put in Hester Bridgeman. "I shall be happy to consort
with you. Let us--"

Anne courtesied, and at the moment a bell was heard, Pauline at once
crossed herself and fell on her knees before the small shrine with a
figure of the Blessed Virgin, and Hester, breaking off her words,
followed her example; but Jane Humphreys stood twisting the corner
of her apron.

In a very short time, almost before Anne had recovered from her
bewilderment, the other two were up and chattering again.

"You are not a Catholic?" demanded Miss Bridgeman.

"I was bred in the Church," said Anne.

"And you the King's godchild!" exclaimed Pauline. "But we shall
soon amend that and make a convert of you like Miss Bridgeman
there."

Anne shook her head, but was glad to ask, "And what means the bell

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