Part 3 out of 9
had many cavaliers who came to talk with them for a few minutes, to tell
them what was doing or not doing yonder where the hounds were hidden in
thicket or coppice; but Henri de Malfort was their most constant attendant.
He rarely left them, and dawdled through the earlier half of an October
day, walking his horse from point to point, or dismounting at sheltered
corners to stand and talk at Lady Fareham's side, with a patience that made
Angela wonder at the contrast between English headlong eagerness, crashing
and splashing through hedge and brook, and French indifference.
"I have not Fareham's passion for mud," he explained to her, when she
remarked upon his lack of interest in the chase, even when the music of the
hounds was ringing through wood and valley, now close beside them, anon
diminishing in the distance, thin in the thin air. "If he comes not home
at dark plastered with mire from boots to eyebrows he will cry, like
Alexander, 'I have lost a day.'"
Partridge-hawking in the wide fields between Chilton and Nettlebed was more
to Malfort's taste, and it was a sport for which Lady Fareham expressed a
certain enthusiasm, and for which she attired herself to the perfection of
picturesque costume. Her hunting-coats were marvels of embroidery on atlas
and smooth cloth; but her smartest velvet and brocade she kept for the
sunny mornings, when, with hooded peregrine on wrist, she sallied forth
intent on slaughter, Angela, Papillon, and De Malfort for her _cortege_, an
easy-paced horse to amble over the grass with her, and the Dutch falconer
to tell her the right moment at which to slip her falcon's hood.
The nuns at the Ursuline Convent would scarcely have recognised their
quondam pupil in the girl on the grey palfrey, whose hair flew loose under
a beaver hat, mingling its tresses with the long ostrich plume, whose
trimly fitting jacket had a masculine air which only accentuated the
womanliness of the fair face above it, and whose complexion, somewhat too
colourless within the convent walls, now glowed with a carnation that
brightened and darkened the large grey eyes into new beauty.
That open-air life was a revelation to the cloister-bred girl. Could this
earth hold greater bliss than to roam at large over spacious gardens,
to cross the river, sculling her boat with strong hands, with her niece
Henriette, otherwise Papillon, sitting in the stern to steer, and scream
instructions to the novice in navigation; and then to lose themselves in
the woods on the further shore, to wander in a labyrinth of reddening
beeches, and oaks on which the thick foliage still kept its dusky green; to
emerge upon open lawns where the pale gold birches looked like fairy trees,
and where amber and crimson toadstools shone like jewels on the skirts of
the dense undergrowth of holly and hawthorn? The liberty of it all, the
delicious feeling of freedom, the release from convent rules and convent
hours, bells ringing for chapel, bells ringing for meals, bells ringing
to mark the end of the brief recreation--a perpetual ringing and drilling
which had made conventual life a dull machine, working always in the same
Oh, this liberty, this variety, this beauty in all things around and about
her! How the young glad soul, newly escaped from prison, revelled and
expatiated in its freedom! Papillon, who at ten years old, had skimmed
the cream off all the simple pleasures, appointed herself her aunt's
instructress in most things, and taught her to row, with some help from
Lord Fareham, who was an expert waterman; and, at the same time, tried
to teach her to despise the country, and all rustic pleasures, except
hunting--although in her inmost heart the minx preferred the liberty of
Oxfordshire woods to the splendour of Fareham House, where she was cooped
in a nursery with her _gouvernante_ for the greater part of her time, and
was only exhibited like a doll to her mother's fine company, or seated upon
a cushion to tinkle a saraband and display her precocious talent on the
guitar, which she played almost as badly as Lady Fareham herself, at whose
feeble endeavours even the courteous De Malfort laughed.
Never was sister kinder than Hyacinth, impelled by that impulsive sweetness
which was her chief characteristic, and also, it might be, moved to lavish
generosity by some scruples of conscience with regard to her grandmother's
will. Her first business was to send for the best milliner in Oxford, a
London Madam who had followed her court customers to the university town,
and to order everything that was beautiful and seemly for a young person of
"I implore you not to make me too fine, dearest," pleaded Angela, who was
more horrified at the milliner's painted face and exuberant figure than
charmed by the contents of the baskets which she had brought with her in
the spacious leather coach--velvets and brocades, hoods and gloves, silk
stockings, fans, perfumes and pulvilios, sweet-bags and scented boxes--all
of which the woman spread out upon Lady Fareham's embroidered satin bed,
for the young lady's admiration. "I pray you remember that I am accustomed
to have only two gowns--a black and a grey. You will make me afraid of my
image in the glass if you dress me like--like--"
She glanced from her sister's _decollete_ bodice to the far more appalling
charms of the milliner, which a gauze kerchief rather emphasised than
concealed, and could find no proper conclusion for her sentence.
"Nay, sweetheart, let not thy modesty take fright. Thou shalt be clad as
demurely as the nun thou hast escaped being--
'And sable stole of Cyprus lawn
Over thy decent shoulders drawn.'
We will have no blacks, but as much decency as you choose. You will mark
the distinction between my sister and your maids of honour, Mrs. Lewin. She
is but a _debutante_ in our modish world, and must be dressed as modestly
as you can contrive, to be consistent with the fashion."
"Oh, my lady, I catch your ladyship's meaning, and your ladyship's
instructions shall be carried out as far as can be without making a savage
of the young lady. I know what some young ladies are when they first come
to Court. I had fuss enough with Miss Hamilton before I could persuade her
to have her bodice cut like a Christian. And even the beautiful Miss Brooks
were all for high tuckers and modesty-pieces when I began to make for them;
but they soon came round. And now with my Lady Denham it is always, 'Gud,
Lewin, do you call that the right cut for a bosom? Udsbud, woman, you
haven't made the curve half deep enough.' And with my Lady Chesterfield it
is, 'Sure, if they say my legs are thick and ugly, I'll let them know my
shoulders are worth looking at. Give me your scissors, creature,' and then
with her own delicate hand she will scoop me a good inch off the satin,
till I am fit to swoon at seeing the cold steel against her milk-white
Mrs. Lewin talked with but little interruption for the best part of an hour
while measuring her new customer, showing her pattern-book, and exhibiting
the ready-made wares she had brought, the greater number of which Hyacinth
insisted on buying for Angela--who was horrified at the slanderous
innuendoes that dropped in casual abundance from the painted lips of the
milliner; horrified, too, that her sister could loll back in her armchair
and laugh at the woman's coarse and malignant talk.
"Indeed, sister, you are far too generous, and you have overpowered me with
gifts," she said, when the milliner had curtsied herself out of the room;
"for I fear my own income will never pay for all these costly things. Three
pounds, I think she said, was the price of the Mazarine hood alone--and
there are stockings and gloves innumerable."
"Mon Ange, while you are with me your own income is but for charities
and vails. I will have it spent for nothing else. You know how rich the
Marquise has made me--while I believe Fareham is a kind of modern Croesus,
though we do not boast of his wealth, for all that is most substantial
in his fortune comes from his mother, whose father was a great merchant
trading with Spain and the Indies, all through James's reign, and luckier
in the hunt for gold than poor Raleigh. Never must you talk to me of
obligation. Are we not sisters, and was it not a mere accident that made me
the elder, and Madame de Montrond's _protegee_?"
"I have no words to thank you for so much kindness. I will only say I am so
happy here that I could never have believed there was such full content on
this sinful earth."
"Wait till we are in London, Angelique. Here we endure existence. It is
only in London that we live."
"Nay, I believe the country will always please me better than the town.
But, sister, do you not hate that Mrs. Lewin--that horrid painted face and
"My dearest child, one hates a milliner for the spoiling of a bodice or the
ill cut of a sleeve--not for her character. I believe Mrs. Lewin's is among
the worst, and that she has had as many intrigues as Lady Castlemaine. As
for her painting, doubtless she does that to remind her customers that she
sells alabaster powder and ceruse."
"Nay, if she wants to disgust them with painted faces she has but to show
"I grant she lays the stuff on badly. I hope, if I live to have as many
wrinkles, I shall fill them better than she does. Yet who can tell what a
hideous toad she might be in her natural skin? It may be Christian charity
that induces her to paint, and so to spare us the sight of a monster.
She will make thee a beauty, Ange, be sure of that. For satin or velvet,
birthday or gala gowns, nobody can beat her. The wretch has had
thousands of my money, so I ought to know. But for thy riding-habit and
hawking-jacket we want the firmer grip of a man's hand. Those must be made
"Yes, child. One only accepts British workmanship when a Parisian artist is
not to be had. Clever as Lewin is, if I want to eclipse my dearest enemy
on any special occasion I send Manningtree across the Channel, or ask De
Malfort to let his valet--who spends his life in transit like a king's
messenger--bring me the latest confection from the Rue de Richelieu."
"What infinite trouble about a gown--and for you who would look lovely in
"Tush, child! You have never seen me in 'anything.' If ever you should
surprise me in an ill gown you will see how much the feathers make the
bird. Poets and play-wrights may pretend to believe that we need no
embellishment from art; but the very men who write all that romantic
nonsense are the first to court a well-dressed woman. And there are few of
them who could calculate with any exactness the relation of beauty to its
surroundings. That is why women go deep into debt to their milliners,
and would sooner be dead in well-made graveclothes than alive in an
Angela could not be in her sister's company for a month without discovering
that Lady Fareham's whole life was given up to the worship of the trivial.
She was kind, she was amiable, generous, even to recklessness. She was
not irreligious, heard Mass and went to confession as often as the hard
conditions of an alien and jealously treated Church would allow, had never
disputed the truth of any tenet that was taught her--but of serious views,
of an earnest consideration of life and death, husband and children,
Hyacinth Fareham was as incapable as her ten-year-old daughter. Indeed, it
sometimes seemed to Angela that the child had broader and deeper thoughts
than the mother, and saw her surroundings with a shrewder and clearer eye,
despite the natural frivolity of childhood, and the exuberance of a fine
It was not for the younger sister to teach the elder, nor did Angela deem
herself capable of teaching. Her nature was thoughtful and earnest: but she
lacked that experience of life which can alone give the thinker a broad
and philosophic view of other people's conduct. She was still far from the
stage of existence in which to understand all is to pardon all.
She beheld the life about her with wonder and bewilderment. It was so
pleasant, so full of beauty and variety; yet things were said and done that
shocked her. There was nothing in her sister's own behaviour to alarm her
modesty; but to hear her sister talk of other women's conduct outraged all
her ideas of decency and virtue. If there were really such wickedness in
the world, women so shameless and vile, was it right that good women should
know of them, that pure lips should speak of their iniquity?
She was still more shocked when Hyacinth talked of Lady Castlemaine with a
"There is something fine about her," Lady Fareham said one day, "in spite
of her tempers and pranks."
"What!" cried Angela, aghast, having thought these creatures unrecognised
by any honest woman, "do you know her--that Lady Castlemaine of whom you
have told me such dreadful things?"
"C'est vrai. J'en ai dit des raides. Mon Ange, in town one must needs know
everybody, though I doubt that after not returning her visit t'other day, I
shall be in her black books, and in somebody else's. She has never been one
of my intimates. If I were often at Whitehall, I should have to be friends
with her. But Fareham is jealous of Court influences; and I am only allowed
to appear on gala nights--perhaps not a half-dozen times in a season. There
is a distinction in not showing one's self often; but it is provoking to
hear of the frolics and jollities which go on every day and every night,
and from which I am banished. It mattered little while the Queen-mother
was at Somerset House, for her Court ranked higher--and was certainly more
refined in its splendour--than her son's ragamuffin herd. But now she is
gone, I shall miss our intellectual _milieu_, and wish myself in the Rue
St. Thomas du Louvre, where the Hotel du Rambouillet, even in its decline,
offers a finer style of company than anything you will see in England."
"Sister, I fear you left half your heart in France."
"Nay, sweet; perhaps some of it has followed me," answered Hyacinth, with
a blush and an enigmatic smile. "_Peste_! I am not a woman to make a fuss
about hearts! There is not a grain of tragedy in my composition. I am like
that girl in the play we saw at Oxford t'other day. Fletcher's was it, or
Shakespeare's? 'A star danced, and under that was I born.' Yes, I was born
under a dancing star; and I shall never break my heart--for love."
"But you regret Paris?"
"_Helas_! Paris means my girlhood; and were you to take me back there
to-morrow you could not make me seventeen again--and so where's the use? I
should see wrinkles in the faces of my friends; and should know that they
were seeing the same ugly lines in mine. Indeed, Ange, I think it is my
youth I sigh for rather than the friends I lived with. They were such merry
days: battles and sieges in the provinces, parliaments disputing here and
there; Conde in and out of prison--now the King's loyal servant, now in
arms against him; swords clashing, cannon roaring under our very windows;
alarm bells pealing, cries of fire, barricades in the streets; and amidst
it all, lute and theorbo, _bouts rimes_ and madrigals, dancing and
play-acting, and foolish practical jests! One could not take the smallest
step in life but one of the wits would make a song about it. Oh, it was a
boisterous time! And we were all mad, I think; so lightly did we reckon
life and death, even when the cannon slew some of our noblest, and the
finest saloons were hung with black. You have done less than live,
Angelique, not to have lived in that time."
Hyacinth loved to ring the changes on her sister's name. Angela was too
English, and sounded too much like the name of a nun; but Angelique
suggested one of the most enchanting personalities in that brilliant
circle on which Lady Fareham so often rhapsodised. This was the beautiful
Angelique Paulet, whose father invented the tax called by his name, La
Paulette--a financial measure, which was the main cause of the first Fronde
"I only knew her when she was between fifty and sixty," said Lady Fareham,
"but she hardly looked forty; and she was still handsome, in spite of her
red hair. _Trop dore_, her admirers called it; but, my love, it was as red
as that scullion's we saw in the poultry yard yesterday. She was a reigning
beauty at three Courts, and had a crowd of adorers when she was only
fourteen. Ah, Papillon, you may open your eyes! What will you be at
fourteen? Still playing with your babies, or mad about your shock dogs, I
"I gave my babies to the housekeeper's grand-daughter last year," said
Papillon, much offended, "when father gave me the peregrine. I only care
for live things now I am old."
"And at fourteen thou wilt be an awkward, long-legged wench that will
frighten away all my admirers, yet not be worth the trouble of a compliment
on thine own account."
"I want no such stuff!" cried Papillon. "Do you think I would like a French
fop always at my elbow as Monsieur de Malfort is ever at yours? I love
hunting and hawking, and a man that can ride, and shoot, and row, and
fight, like father or Sir Denzil Warner--not a man who thinks more of his
ribbons and periwig and cannon-sleeves than of killing his fox or flying
"Oh, you are beginning to have opinions!" sighed Hyacinth. "I am indeed an
old woman! Go and find yourself something to play with, alive or dead. You
are vastly too clever for my company."
"I'll go and saddle Brownie. Will you come for a ride, Aunt Angy?"
"Yes, dear, if her ladyship does not want me at home."
"Her ladyship knows your heart is in the fields and woods. Yes, sweetheart,
saddle your pony, and order your aunt's horse and a pair of grooms to take
care of you."
The child ran off rejoicing.
"Precocious little devil! She will pick up all our jargon before she is in
"Dear sister, if you talk so indiscreetly before her----"
"Indiscreet! Am I really so indiscreet? That is Fareham's word. I believe
I was born so. But I was telling you about your namesake, Mademoiselle
Paulet. She began to reign when Henri was king, and no doubt he was one of
her most ardent admirers. Don't look frightened! She was always a model of
virtue. Mademoiselle Scudery has devoted pages to painting her perfections
under an Oriental alias. She sang, she danced, she talked divinely. She did
everything better than everybody else. Priests and Bishops praised her. And
after changes and losses and troubles, she died far from Paris, a spinster,
nearly sixty years old. It was a paltry finish to a life that began in a
blaze of glory."
SUPERIOR TO FASHION.
At Oxford Angela was so happy as to be presented to Catharine of Braganza,
a little dark woman, whose attire still bore some traces of its original
Portuguese heaviness; such a dress--clumsy, ugly, infinitely rich and
expensive--as one sees in old portraits of Spanish and Netherlandish
matrons, in which every elaborate detail of the costly fabric seems to have
been devised in the research of ugliness. She saw the King also; met him
casually--she walking with her brother-in-law, while Lady Fareham and her
friends ran from shop to shop in the High Street--in Magdalen College
grounds, a group of beauties and a family of spaniels fawning upon him as
he sauntered slowly, or stopped to feed the swans that swam close by
the bank, keeping pace with him, and stretching long necks in greedy
The loveliest woman Angela had ever seen--tall, built like a
goddess--walked on the King's right hand. She carried a heap of broken
bread in the satin petticoat which she held up over one white arm, while
with her other hand she gave the pieces one by one to the King. Angela
saw that as each hunch changed hands the royal fingers touched the lady's
tapering finger-tips and tried to detain them.
Fareham took off his hat, bowed low in a grave and stately salutation, and
passed on; but Charles called him back.
"Nay, Fareham, has the world grown so dull that you have nothing to tell us
this November morning?"
"Indeed, sir, I fear that my riverside hermitage can afford very little
news that could interest your Majesty or these ladies."
"A fox gone to ground, an otter killed among your reeds, or a hawk in the
sulks, is an event in the country. Anything would be a relief from the
weekly total of London deaths, which is our chief subject of conversation,
or the General's complaints that there is no one in town but himself to
transact business, or dismal prophecies of a Nonconformist rebellion that
is to follow the Five Mile Act."
The group of ladies stared at Angela in a smiling silence, one haughtier
than the rest standing a little aloof. She was older, and of a more
audacious loveliness than the lady who carried broken bread in her
petticoat; but she too was splendidly beautiful as a goddess on a painted
ceiling, and as much painted perhaps.
Angela contemplated her with the reverence youth gives to consummate
beauty, unaware that she was admiring the notorious Barbara Palmer.
Fareham waited, hat in hand, grave almost to sullenness. It was not for him
to do more than reply to his Majesty's remarks, nor could he retire till
"You have a strange face at your side, man. Pray introduce the lady,"
said the King, smiling at Angela, whose vivid blush was as fresh as Miss
Stewart's had been a year or two ago, before she had her first quarrel with
Lady Castlemaine, or rode in Gramont's glass coach, or gave her classic
profile to embellish the coin of the realm--the "common drudge 'tween man
"I have the honour to present my sister-in-law, Mistress Kirkland, to your
Majesty." The King shook hands with Angela in the easiest way, as if he had
"Welcome to our poor court, Mistress Kirkland. Your father was my father's
friend and companion in the evil days. They starved together at Beverley,
and rode side by side through the Warwickshire lanes to suffer the
insolence of Coventry. I have not forgotten. If I had I have a monitor
yonder to remind me," glancing in the direction of a middle-aged gentleman,
stately, and sober of attire, who was walking slowly towards them. "The
Chancellor is a living chronicle, and his conversation chiefly consists in
reminiscences of events I would rather forget"
"Memory is an invention of Old Nick," said Lady Castlemaine. "Who the deuce
wants to remember anything, except what cards are out and what are in?"
"Not you, Fairest. You should be the last to cultivate mnemonics for
yourself or for your friends. Is your father in England, sweet mistress?"
Angela faltered a negative, as if with somebody else's voice--or so it
seemed to her. A swarthy, heavy-browed man, wearing a dark-blue ribbon and
a star--a man with whom his intimates jested in shameless freedom--a man
whom the town called Rowley, after some ignominious quadruped--a man who
had distinguished himself neither in the field nor in the drawing-room by
any excellence above the majority, since the wit men praised has resolved
itself for posterity into half a dozen happy repartees. Only this! But he
was a King, a crowned and anointed King, and even Angela, who was less
frivolous and shallow than most women, stood before him abashed and
His Majesty bowed a gracious adieu, yawned, flung another crust to the
swans, and sauntered on, the Stewart whispering in his ear, the Castlemaine
talking loud to her neighbour, Lady Chesterfield, this latter lady very
pretty, very bold and mischievous, newly restored to the Court after exile
with her jealous husband at his mansion in Wales.
They were gone; Charles to be button-holed by Lord Clarendon, who waited
for him at the end of the walk; the ladies to wander as they pleased
till the two-o'clock dinner. They were gone, like a dream of beauty and
splendour, and Fareham and Angela pursued their walk by the river, grey in
the sunless November.
"Well, sister, you have seen the man whom we brought back in a whirlwind
of loyalty five years ago, and for whose sake we rebuilt the fabric of
monarchical government. Do you think we are much the gainers by that
tempest of enthusiasm which blew us home Charles the Second? We had
suffered all the trouble of the change to a Republic; a life that should
have been sacred had been sacrificed to the principles of liberty. While
abhorring the regicides, we might have profited by their crime. We might
have been a free state to-day, like the United Provinces. Do you think we
are better off with a King like Rowley, to amuse himself at the expense of
"I detest the idea of a Republic."
"Youth worships the supernatural in anointed kings. Think not that I am
opposed to a constitutional monarchy, so long as it works well for the
majority. But when England had with such terrible convulsions shaken
off all those shackles and trappings of royalty, and when the ship, so
lightened, had sailed so steadily with no ballast but common sense, does it
not seem almost a pity to undo what has been done--to begin again the long
procession of good kings and bad kings, foolish or wise--for the sake of
such a man as yonder saunterer?" with a glance towards the British Sultan
and his harem.
"England was never better governed than by Cromwell," he continued. "She
was tranquil at home and victorious abroad, admired and feared. Mazarin,
while pretending to be the faithful friend of Charles, was the obsequious
courtier of Oliver. The finest form of government is a limited despotism.
See how France prospered under the sagacious tyrant, Louis the Eleventh,
under the soldier-statesman, Sully, under pure reason incarnate in
Richelieu. Whether you call your tyrant king or protector, minister or
president, matters nothing. It is the man and not the institution, the mind
and not the machinery that is wanted."
"I did not know you were a Republican, like Sir Denzil Warner."
"I am nothing now I have left off being a soldier. I have no strong
opinions about anything. I am a looker on; and life seems little more
real to me than a stage play. Warner is of a different stamp. He is an
enthusiastic in politics--godson of Horn's--a disciple of Milton's, the son
of a Puritan, and a Puritan himself. A fine nature, Angela, allied to a
Sir Denzil Warner was their neighbour at Chilton, and Angela had met him
often enough for them to become friends. He had ridden by her side with
hawk and hound, had been one of her instructors in English sport, and
had sometimes, by an accident, joined her and Henriette in their boating
expeditions, and helped her to perfect herself in the management of a pair
"Hyacinth has her fancies about Warner," Fareham said presently, as they
There was a significance in his tone that the girl could not mistake; more
especially as her sister had not been reticent about those notions to which
"Hyacinth has fancies about many things," she said, blushing a little.
Fareham noted the slightness of the blush.
"I verily believe that handsome youth has found you adamant," he said,
after a thoughtful silence. "Yet you might easily choose a worse suitor.
Your sister has often the strangest whims about marriage-making; but in
this fancy I did not oppose her. It would be a very suitable alliance."
"I hope your lordship does not begin to think me a burden on your
household," faltered Angela, wounded by his cold-blooded air in disposing
of her. "When you and my sister are tired of me I can go back to my
"What! Return to those imprisoning walls; immure your sweet youth in a
cloister? Not for the Indies. I would not suffer such a sacrifice. Tired of
you! I--so deeply bound! I who owe you my life! I who looked up out of a
burning hell of pain and madness and saw an angel standing by my bed! Tired
of you! Indeed you know me better than to think so badly of me were it but
in one flash of thought. You can need no protestations from me. Only, as
a young and beautiful woman, living in an age that is full of peril for
women, I should like to see you married to a good and true man--such as
"I am sorry to disappoint you," Angela answered coldly; "but Papillon and
I have agreed that I am always to be her spinster aunt, and am to keep her
house when she is married, and wear a linsey gown and a bunch of keys at my
girdle, like Mrs. Hubbuck, at Chilton."
"That's just like Henriette. She takes after her mother, and thinks that
this globe and all the people upon it were created principally for her
pleasure. The Americas to give her chocolate, the Indian isles to sweeten
it for her, the ocean tides to bring her feathers and finery. She is her
own centre and circumference, like her mother."
"You should not say such an ill thing of your wife, Fareham," said Angela,
deeply shocked. "Hyacinth is not one to look into the heart of things. She
has too happy a disposition for grave backward-reaching thoughts; but I
will swear that she loves you--ay--almost to reverence."
"Yes, to reverence, to over much reverence, perhaps. She might have given a
freer, fonder love to a more amiable man. I have some strain of my unhappy
kinsman's temper, perhaps--the disposition that keeps a wife at a distance.
He managed to make three wives afraid of him; and it was darkly rumoured
that he killed one."
"Strafford--a murderer! No, no."
"Not by intent. An accident--only an accident. They who most hated him
pretended that he pushed her from him somewhat roughly when she was least
able to bear roughness, and that the after consequences of the blow were
fatal. He was one of the doomed always, you see. He knew that himself, and
told his bosom friend that he was not long-lived. The brand of misfortune
was upon him even at the height of his power. You may read his destiny in
They walked on in silence for some time, Angela depressed and unhappy. It
seemed as if Fareham had lifted a mask and shown her his real countenance,
with all the lines that tell a life history. She had suspected that he was
not happy; that the joyous existence amidst fairest surroundings which
seemed so exquisite to her was dull and vapid for him. She could but think
that he was like her father, and that action and danger were necessary to
him, and that it was only this rustic tranquillity that weighed upon his
"Do not for a moment believe that I would speak slightingly of your
sister," Fareham resumed, after that silent interval. "It were indeed an
ill thing in me--most of all to disparage her in your hearing. She is
lovely, accomplished, learned even, after the fashion of the Rue St. Thomas
du Louvre. She used to shine among the brightest at the Scuderys' Saturday
parties, which were the most wearisome assemblies I ever ran away from. The
match was made for us by others, and I was her betrothed husband before I
saw her. Yet I loved her at first sight. Who could help loving a face
as fair as morning over the eastward hills, a voice as sweet as the
nightingales in the Tuileries garden? She was so young--a child almost; so
gentle and confiding. And to see her now with Papillon is to question which
is the younger, mother or daughter. Love her? Why, of course I love her. I
loved her then. I love her now. Her beauty has but ripened with the passing
years; and she has walked the furnace of fine company in two cities, and
has never been seared by fire. Love her! Could a man help loving beauty,
and frankness, and a natural innocence which cannot be spoiled even by the
knowledge of things evil, even by daily contact with sin in high places?"
Again there was a silence, and then, in a deeper tone, after a long sigh,
"I love and honour my wife; I adore my children; yet I am alone, Angela,
and I shall be alone till death."
"I don't understand."
"Oh yes, you do; you understand as well as I who suffer. My wife and I love
each other dearly. If she have a fit of the vapours, or an aching tooth, I
am wretched. But we have never been companions. The things that she loves
are charmless for me. She is enchanted with people from whom I run away. Is
it companionship, do you think, for me to look on while she walks a coranto
or tosses shuttlecocks with De Malfort? Roxalana is as much my companion
when I admire her on the stage from my seat in the pit. There are times
when my wife seems no nearer to me than a beautiful picture. If I sit in a
corner, and listen to her pretty babble about the last fan she bought at
the Middle Exchange, or the last witless comedy she saw at the King's
Theatre, is that companionship, think you? I may be charmed to-day--as I
was charmed ten years ago--with the silvery sweetness of her voice, with
the graceful turn of her head, the white roundness of her throat. At least
I am constant. There is no change in her or in me. We are just as near and
just as far apart as when the priest joined our hands at St. Eustache. And
it must be so to the end, I suppose; and I think the fault is in me. I am
out of joint with the world I live in. I cannot set myself in tune with
their new music. I look back, and remember, and regret; yet hardly know why
I remember or what I regret."
Again a silence, briefer than the last, and he went on:--
"Do you think it strange that I talk so freely--to you--who are scarce more
than a child, less learned than Henriette in worldly knowledge? It is a
comfort sometimes to talk of one's self; of what one has missed as well as
of what one has. And you have such an air of being wise beyond your years;
wise in all thoughts that are not of the world--thoughts of things of which
there is no truck at the Exchanges; which no one buys or sells at Abingdon
fair. And you are so near allied to me--a sister! I never had a sister of
my own blood, Angela. I was an only child. Solitude was my portion. I
lived alone with my tutor and _gouvernante_--a poor relation of my
mother's--alone in a house that was mostly deserted, for Lord and Lady
Fareham were in London with the King, till the troubles brought the Court
to Christchurch, and them to Chilton. I have had few in whom to confide.
And you--remember what you have been to me, and do not wonder if I trust
you more than others. Thou didst go down to the very grave with me, didst
pluck me out of the pit. Corruption could not touch a creature so lovely
and so innocent Thou didst walk unharmed through the charnel-house.
Remembering this, as I ever must remember, can you wonder that you are
nearer to me than all the rest of the world?"
She had seated herself on a bench that commanded a view of the river, and
her dreaming eyes were looking far away along the dim perspective of mist
and water, bare pollard willows, ragged sedges. Her head drooped a little
so that he could not see her face, and one ungloved hand hung listlessly at
He bent down to take the slender hand in his, lifted it to his lips, and
quickly let it go; but not before she had felt his tears upon it. She
looked up a few minutes later, and the place was empty. Her tears fell
thick and fast. Never before had she suffered this exquisite pain--sadness
so intense, yet touching so close on joy. She sat alone in the
inexpressible melancholy of the late autumn; pale mists rising from the
river; dead leaves falling; and Fareham's tears upon her hand.
IN A PURITAN HOUSE.
How quickly the days passed in that gay household at Chilton! and yet every
day of Angela's life held so much of action and emotion that, looking back
at Christmas time to the three months that had slipped by since she had
brought Fareham from his sick bed to his country home, she could but
experience that common feeling of youth in such circumstances. Surely
it was half a lifetime that had lapsed; or else she, by some subtle and
supernatural change, had become a new creature.
She thought of her life in the Convent, thought of it much and deeply on
those Sunday mornings when she and her sister and De Malfort and a score or
so of servants crept quietly to a room in the heart of the house where a
Priest, who had been fetched from Oxford in, Lady Fareham's coach, said
Mass within locked doors. The familiar words of the service, the odour of
the incense, brought back the old time--the unforgotten atmosphere, the
dull tranquillity of ten years, which had been as one year by reason of
their level monotony.
Could she go back to such a life as that? Go back! Leave all she loved? At
the mere suggestion her trembling hand was stretched out involuntarily to
clasp her niece Henriette, kneeling beside her. Leave them--leave those
with whom and for whom she lived? Leave this loving child--her sister--her
brother? Fareham had told her to call him "Brother." He had been to her as
a brother, with all a brother's kindness, counselling her, confiding in
Only with one person at Chilton Abbey had she ever conversed as seriously
as with Fareham, and that person was Sir Denzil Warner, who at five and
twenty was more serious in his way of looking at serious things than most
men of fifty.
"I cannot make a jest of life," he said once, in reply to some flippant
speech of De Malfort's; "it is too painful a business for the majority."
"What has that to do with us--the minority? Can we smooth a sick man's
pillow by pulling a long face? We shall do him more good by tossing him a
crown, if he be poor; or helping to build him a hospital by the sacrifice
of a night's winnings at ombre. Long faces help nobody; that is what you
Puritans will never consider."
"No; but if the long faces are the faces of men who think, something may
come of their thoughts for the good of humanity."
Denzil Warner was the only person who ever spoke to Angela of her religion.
With extreme courtesy, and with gentle excuses for his temerity in touching
on so delicate a theme, he ventured to express his abhorrence of the
superstitions interwoven with the Romanist's creed. He talked as one who
had sat at the feet of the blind poet--talked sometimes in the very words
of John Milton.
There was much in what he said that appealed to her reason; but there was
no charm in that severer form of worship which he offered in exchange for
her own. He was frank and generous; he had a fine nature, but was too much
given to judging his fellow-men. He had all the arrogance of Puritanism
superadded to the natural arrogance of youth that has never known
humiliating reverses, that has never been the servant of circumstance. He
was Angela's senior by something less than four years; yet it seemed to her
that he was in every attribute infinitely her superior. In education, in
depth of thought, in resolution for good, and scorn of evil. If he loved
her--as Hyacinth insisted upon declaring--there was nothing of youthful
impetuosity in his passion. He had, indeed, betrayed his sentiments by no
direct speech. He had told her gravely that he was interested in her, and
deeply concerned that one so worthy and so amiable should have been brought
up in the house of idolaters, should have been taught falsehood instead of
She stood up boldly for the faith of her maternal ancestors.
"I cannot continue your friend if you speak evil of those I love, Sir
Denzil," she said. "Could you have seen the lives of those good ladies of
the Ursuline Convent, their unselfishness, their charity, you must needs
have respected their religion. I cannot think why you love to say hard
words of us Catholics; for in all I have ever heard or seen of the lives
of the Nonconformists they approach us far more nearly in their principles
than the members of the Church of England, who, if my sister does not paint
them with too black a brush, practise their religion with a laxity and
indifference that would go far to turn religion to a jest."
Whatever Sir Denzil's ideas might be upon the question of creed--and he
did not scruple to tell Angela that he thought every Papist foredoomed to
everlasting punishment--he showed so much pleasure in her society as to
be at Chilton Abbey, and the sharer of her walks and rides, as often as
possible. Lady Fareham encouraged his visits, and was always gracious to
him. She discovered that he possessed the gift of music, though not in
the same remarkable degree as Henri de Malfort, who played the guitar
exquisitely, and into whose hands you had but to put a musical instrument
for him to extract sweetness from it. Lute or theorbo, viola or viol di
gamba, treble or bass, came alike to his hand and ear. Some instruments he
had studied; with some his skill came by intuition.
Denzil Warner performed very creditably upon the organ. He had played on
John Milton's organ in St. Bride's Church, when he was a boy, and he had
played of late in the church at Chalfont St. Giles, where he had visited
Milton frequently, since the poet had left his lodgings in Artillery Walk,
carrying his family and his books to that sequestered village in the
shelter of the hills between Uxbridge and Beaconsfield. Here from the lips
of his sometime tutor the Puritan had heard such stories of the Court as
made him hourly expectant of exterminating fires. Doubtless the fire would
have come, as it came upon Sodom and Gomorrah, but for those righteous
lives of the Nonconformists, which redeemed the time; quiet, god-fearing
lives in dull old city houses, in streets almost as narrow as those which
Milton remembered in his beloved Italy; streets where the sun looked in for
an hour, shooting golden arrows down upon the diamond-paned casements, and
deepening the shadow of the massive timbers that held up the overlapping
stories, looked in and bade "good night" within an hour or so, leaving
an atmosphere of sober grey, cool, and quiet, and dull, in those obscure
streets and alleys where the great traffic of Cheapside or Ludgate sounded
like the murmur of a far-off sea.
Pious men and women worshipped the implacable God of the Puritans in the
secret chambers of those narrow streets; and those who gathered together
in these days--if they rejected the Liturgy of the Church of England--must
indeed be few, and must meet by stealth, as if to pray or preach after
their own manner were a crime. Charles, within a year or so of his general
amnesty and happy restoration, had made such worship criminal; and now the
Five Mile Act, lately passed at Oxford, had rendered the restrictions and
penalties of Nonconformity utterly intolerable. Men were lying in prison
here and there about merry England for no greater offence than preaching
the gospel to a handful of God-fearing people. But that a Puritan tinker
should moulder for a dozen years in a damp jail could count for little
against the blessed fact of the Maypole reinstated in the Strand, and five
play-houses in London performing ribald comedies, till but recently, when
the plague shut their doors.
Milton, old and blind, and somewhat soured by domestic disappointments, had
imparted no optimistic philosophy to young Denzil Warner, whose father he
had known and loved. The fight at Hopton Heath had made Denzil fatherless;
the Colonel of Warner's horse riding to his death in the last fatal charge
of that memorable day.
Denzil had grown up under the prosperous rule of the Protector, and
his boyhood had been spent in the guardianship of a most watchful
and serious-minded mother. He had been somewhat over-cosseted and
apron-stringed, it may be, in that tranquil atmosphere of the rich widow's
house; but not all Lady Warner's tenderness could make her son a milksop.
Except for a period of two years in London, when he had lived under the
roof of the great Republican, a docile pupil to a stern but kind master,
Denzil had lived mostly under the open sky, was a keen sportsman, and loved
the country with almost as sensitive a love as his quondam master and
present friend, John Milton; and it was perhaps this appreciation of rural
beauty which had made a bond of friendship between the great poet and the
"You have a knack of painting rural scenes which needs but to be joined
with the gift of music to make you a poet," he said, when Denzil had been
expatiating upon the landscape amidst which he had enjoyed his last bout of
falconry, or his last run with his half-dozen couple of hounds. "You are
almost as the power of sight to me when you describe those downs and
valleys whose every shape and shadow I once knew so well. Alas, that I
should be changed so much and they so little!"
"It is one thing, sir, to feel that this world is beautiful, and another
to find golden words and phrases which to a prisoner in the Tower could
conjure up as fair a landscape as Claude Lorraine ever painted. Those
sonorous and mellifluous lines which you were so gracious as to repeat to
me, forming part of the great epic which the world is waiting for, bear
witness to the power that can turn words into music, and make pictures out
of the common tongue. That splendid art, sir, is but given to one man in
a century--or in several centuries; since I know but Dante and Virgil who
have ever equalled your vision of heaven and hell."
"Do not over-praise me, Denzil, in thy charity to poverty and affliction.
It is pleasing to be understood by a youth who loves hawk and hound better
than books; for it offers the promise of popular appreciation in years to
come. Yet the world is so little athirst for my epic that I doubt if I
shall find a bookseller to give me a few pounds for the right to print a
work that has cost me years of thought and laborious revision. But at least
it has been my consolation in the long blank night of my decay, and has
saved me many a heart-ache. For while I am building up my verses, and
engraving line after line upon the tablets of memory, I can forget that
I am blind, and poor, and neglected, and that the dear saint I loved was
snatched from me in the noontide of our happiness."
Denzil talked much of John Milton in his conversations with Angela, during
those rides or rambles, in which Papillon was their only chaperon. Lady
Fareham sauntered, like her royal master; but she rarely walked a mile at a
stretch; and she was pleased to encourage the rural wanderings that brought
her sister and Warner into a closer intimacy, and promised well for the
success of her matrimonial scheme.
"I believe they adore each other already," she told Fareham one morning,
standing by his side in the great stone porch, to watch those three
youthful figures ride away, aunt and niece side by side, on palfrey and
pony, with Denzil for their cavalier.
"You are always over-quick to be sure of anything that suits your own
fancy, dearest," answered Fareham, watching them to the curve of the
avenue; "but I see no signs of favour to that solemn youth in your sister.
She suffers his attentions out of pure civility. He is an accomplished
horseman, having given all his life to learning how to jump a fence
gracefully; and his company is at least better than a groom's."
"How scornfully you jeer at him!"
"Oh, I have no more scorn than the Cavalier's natural contempt for the
Roundhead. A hereditary hatred, perhaps."
"You say such hard things of his Majesty that one might often take you to
be of Sir Denzil's way of thinking."
"I never think about the King. I only wonder. I may sometimes express my
wonderment too freely for a loyal subject."
"I cannot vouch for Angela, but I will wager that he is deep in love,"
"Have it your own way, sweetheart. He is dull enough to be deep in debt, or
love, or politics, anything dismal and troublesome," answered his lordship,
as he strolled off with his spaniels; not those dainty toy dogs which had
been his companions at the gate of death, but the fine liver-and-black
shooting dogs that lived in the kennels, and thought it doghood's highest
privilege to attend their lord in his walks, whether with or without a gun.
* * * * *
His lordship kept open Christmas that year at Chilton Abbey, and there
was great festivity, chiefly devised and carried out by the household,
as Fareham and his wife were too much of the modern fashion, and too
cosmopolitan in their ideas, to appreciate the fuss and feasting of an
English Christmas. They submitted, however, to the festival as arranged for
them by Mr. Manningtree and Mrs. Hubbuck--the copious feasting for servants
and dependents, the mummers and carolsingers, the garlands and greenery
which disguised the fine old tapestry, and made a bower of the vaulted
hall. Everything was done with a lavish plenteousness, and no doubt the
household enjoyed the fun and feasting all the more because of that
dismal season of a few years back, when all Christmas ceremonies had been
denounced as idolatrous, and when the members of the Anglican Church had
assembled for their Christmas service secretly in private houses, and as
much under the ban of the law as the Nonconformists were now.
Angela was interested in everything in that bright world where all things
were new. The children piping Christmas hymns in the clear cold morning
enchanted her. She ran down to kiss and fondle the smaller among them, and
finding them thinly clad promised to make them warm cloaks and hoods as
fast as her fingers could sew. Denzil found her there in the wide snowy
space before the porch, prattling with the children, bare-headed, her soft
brown hair blown about in the wind; and he was moved, as a man must needs
be moved by the aspect of the woman that he loves caressing a small child,
melted almost to tears by the thought that in some blessed time to come she
might so caress, only more warmly, a child whose existence should be their
bond of union.
And yet, being both shy and somewhat cold of temperament, he restrained
himself, and greeted her only as a friend; for his mother's influence was
holding him back, urging him not to marry a Papist, were she ever so lovely
He had known Angela for nearly three months, and his acquaintance with her
had reached this point of intimacy, yet Lady Warner had never seen her.
This fact distressed him, and he had tried hard to awaken his mother's
interest by praises of the Fareham family and of Angela's exquisite
character; but the Scarlet Spectre came between the Puritan lady and the
house of Fareham.
"There is nothing you can tell me about this girl, upon whom I fear you
have foolishly set your affection, which can make me forget that she has
been nursed and swaddled in the bondage of a corrupt Church, taught to
worship idols, and to cherish lying traditions, while the light of God's
holy word has been made dark for her."
"She is young enough to embrace a purer creed, and to walk by the clearer
light that leads your footsteps, mother. If she were my wife I should not
despair of winning her to think as we do."
"And in all the length of England was there no young woman of right
principles fit to be thy wife, that thou must needs fall into the snare of
the first Popish witch who set her lure for thee?"
"Popish witch! Oh, mother, how ill you can conceive the image of my dear
love, who has no witchcraft but beauty, no charm so potent as her truth and
"I know them--these children of the Scarlet Woman--and I know their works,
and the fate of those who trust them. The late King--weak and stubborn
as he was--might have been alive this day, and reigning over a contented
people, but for that fair witch who ruled him. It was the Frenchwoman's
sorceries that wrought Charles's ruin."
"If thou wouldst but see my Angela," pleaded the son, with a caressing arm
about his mother's spare shoulders.
"Thine! What! is she thine--pledged and promised already? Then, indeed,
these white hairs will go down with sorrow to the grave."
"Mother, I doubt if thou couldst find so much as a single grey hair in that
comely head of thine," said the son; and the mother smiled in the midst of
"And as for promise--there has been none. I have said no word of love; nor
have I been encouraged to speak by any token of liking on the lady's part.
I stand aloof and admire, and wonder at so much modesty and intelligence in
Lady Fareham's sister. Let me bring her to see you, mother?"
"This is your house, Denzil. Were you to fill it with the sons and
daughters of Belial, I could but pray that your eyes might be opened
to their iniquity. I could not shut these doors against you or your
companions. But I want no Popish women here."
"Ah, you do not know! Wait until you have seen her," urged Denzil, with the
lover's confidence in the omnipotence of his mistress's charms.
And now on this Christmas Day there came the opportunity Denzil had been
waiting for. The weather was cold and bright, the landscape was blotted out
with snow; and the lake in Chilton Park offered a sound surface for the
exercise of that novel amusement of skating, an accomplishment which Lord
Fareham had acquired while in the Low Countries, and in which he had
been Denzil's instructor during the late severe weather. Angela, at her
brother-in-law's entreaty, had also adventured herself upon a pair of
skates, and had speedily found delight in the swift motion, which seemed
to her like the flight of a bird skimming the steely surface of the frozen
lake, and incomparable in enjoyment.
"It is even more delightful than a gallop on Zephyr," she told her sister,
who stood on the bank with a cluster of gay company, watching the skaters.
"I doubt not that; since there is even more danger of getting your neck
broken upon runaway skates than on a runaway horse," answered Hyacinth.
After an hour on the lake, in which Denzil had distinguished himself by his
mastery of the new exercise, being always at hand to support his mistress
at the slightest indication of peril, she consented to the removal of her
skates, at Papillon's earnest entreaty, who wanted her aunt to walk with
her before dinner. After dinner there would be the swift-coming December
twilight, and Christmas games, snap-dragon and the like, which Papillon,
although a little fine lady, reproducing all her mother's likes and
dislikes in miniature, could not, as a human child, altogether disregard.
"I don't care about such nonsense as Georgie does," she told her aunt,
with condescending reference to her brother; "but I like to see the others
amused. Those village children are such funny little savages. They stick
their fingers in their mouths and grin at me, and call me 'Your annar,' or
'Your worship,' and say 'Anan' to everything. They are like Audrey in the
play you read to me."
Denzil was in attendance upon aunt and niece.
"If you want to come with us, you must invent a pretty walk, Sir Denzil,"
said Papillon. "I am tired of long lanes and ploughed fields."
"I know of one of the pleasantest rambles in the shire--across the woods
to the Grange. And we can rest there for half an hour, if Mrs. Angela will
allow us, and take a light refreshment."
"Dear Sir Denzil, that is the very thing," answered Papillon, breathlessly.
"I am dying of hunger. And I don't want to go back to the Abbey. Will there
be any cakes or mince pies at the Grange?"
"Cakes in plenty, but I fear there will be no mince pies. My mother does
not love Christmas dainties."
Henriette wanted to know why. She was always wanting the reason of things.
A bright inquiring little mind, perpetually on the alert for novelty; an
imitative brain like a monkey's; hands and feet that know not rest; and
there you have the Honourable Henrietta Maria Revel, _alias_ Papillon.
They crossed the river, Angela and Denzil each taking an oar, while
Papillon pretended to steer, a process which she effected chiefly by
"Another lump of ice!" she shrieked. "We shall be swamped. I believe the
river will be frozen before Twelfth Night, and we shall be able to dance
upon it. We must have bonfires and roast an ox for the poor people. Mrs.
Hubbuck told me they roasted an ox the year King Charles was beheaded.
Horrid brutes--to think that they could eat at such a time! If they had
been sorry they could not have relished roast beef."
Hadley Grange, commonly known as the Grange, was in every detail the
antithesis of Chilton Abbey. At the Abbey the eye was dazzled, the mind was
bewildered, by an excess of splendour--an over-much of everything gorgeous
or beautiful. At the Grange sight and mind were rested by the low tone of
colour, the quaker-like precision of form. All the furniture in the house
was Elizabethan, plain, ponderous, the conscientious work of Oxfordshire
mechanics. On one side of the house there was a bowling green, on the
other a physic garden, where odours of medicinal herbs, camomile, fennel,
rosemary, rue, hung ever on the surrounding air. There was nothing modern
in Lady Warner's house but the spotless cleanliness; the perfume of last
summer's roses and lavender; the polished surface of tables and cabinets,
oak chests and oak floors, testifying to the inexorable industry of rustic
housemaids. In all other respects the Grange was like a house that had just
awakened from a century of sleep.
Lady Warner rose from her high-backed chair by the chimney corner in the
oak parlour, and laid aside the book she had been reading, to welcome her
son, startled at seeing him followed by a tall, fair girl in a black mantle
and hood, and a little slip of a thing, with bright dark eyes and small
determined face, pert, pointed, interrogative, framed in swansdown--a small
aerial figure in a white cloth cloak, and a scarlet brocade frock, under
which two little red shoes danced into the room.
"Mother, I have brought Mrs. Angela Kirkland and her niece to visit you
this Christmas morning."
"Mrs. Kirkland and her niece are welcome," and Lady Warner made a deep
curtsy, not like one of Lady Fareham's sinking curtseys, as of one near
swooning in an ecstasy of politeness, but dignified and inflexible,
straight down and straight up again.
"But as for Christmas, 'tis one of those superstitious observances which I
have ever associated with a Church I abhor."
Denzil reddened furiously. To have brought this upon his beloved!
Angela drew herself up, and paled at the unexpected assault. The brutality
of it was startling, though she knew, from Denzil's opinions, that his
mother must be an enemy of her faith.
"Indeed, madam, I am sorry that anybody in England should think it an ill
thing to celebrate the birthday of our Redeemer and Lord," she said.
"Do you think, young lady, that foolish romping games, and huge chines of
beef, and smoking ale made luscious with spices and roasted pippins, and
carol-singing and play-acting, can be the proper honouring of Him who was
God first and for ever, and Man only for one brief interval in His eternal
existence? To keep God's birthday with drunken rioting! What blasphemy! If
you can think that there is not more profaneness than piety in such sensual
revelries--why, it is that you do not know how to think. You would have
learnt to reason better had you known that sweet poet and musician, and
true thinker, Mr. John Milton, with whom it was my privilege to converse
frequently during my husband's lifetime, and afterwards when he
condescended to accept my son for his pupil, and spent three days and
nights under this roof."
"Mr. Milton is still at Chalfont, mother. So you may hope to see him again
with a less journey than to London," said Denzil, seizing the first chance
of a change in the conversation; "and here is a little Miss to whom I have
promised a light collation, with some of your Jersey milk."
"Mistress Kirkland and her niece shall have the best I can provide. The
larder will furnish something acceptable, I doubt not, although I and my
household observe this day as a fast."
"What, madam, are you sorry that Jesus Christ was born to-day?" asked
"I am sorry for my sins, little mistress, and for the sins of all mankind,
which nothing but His blood could wash away. To remember His birth is to
remember that He died for us; and that is why I spend the twenty-fifth of
December in fasting and prayer."
"Are you not glad you are to dine at the Abbey to-day, Sir Denzil?" asked
Papillon, by way of commentary.
"Nay, I put no restraint on my son. He can serve God after his own manner,
and veer with every wind of passion or fancy, if he will. But you shall
have your cake and draught of milk, little lady, and you too, Mistress
Kirkland, will, I hope, taste our Jersey milk, unless you would prefer a
glass of Malmsey wine."
"Mrs. Kirkland is as much an anchorite as yourself, mother. She takes no
Lady Warner was the soul of hospitality, and particularly proud of her
dairy. When kept clear of theology and politics she was not an ill-natured
woman. But to be a Puritan in the year of the Five Mile Act was not to
think kindly of the Government under which she lived; while her sense of
her own wrongs was intensified by rumours of over-indulgence shown to
Papists, and the broad assertion that King and Duke were Roman Catholic at
heart, and waited only the convenient hour to reforge the fetters that had
bound England to Rome.
She was fond of children, most of all of little girls, never having had a
daughter. She bent down to kiss Henriette, and then turned to Angela with
her kindest smile--
"And this is Lady Fareham's daughter? She is as pretty as a picture."
"And I am as good as a picture--sometimes, madam," chirped Papillon.
"Mother says I am _douce comme un image._"
"When thou hast been silent or still for five minutes," said Angela, "and
that is but seldom."
A loud hand-bell summoned the butler, and an Arcadian meal was speedily set
out on a table in the hall, where a great fire of logs burnt as merrily as
if it had been designed to enliven a Christmas-keeping household. Indeed
there was nothing miserly or sparing about the housekeeping at the Grange,
which harmonised with the sombre richness of Lady Warner's grey
brocade gown, from the old-fashioned silk mercer's at the sign of the
Flower-de-luce, in Cheapside. There was liberality without waste, and a
certain quiet refinement in every detail, which reminded Angela of the
convent parlour and her aunt's room--and contrasted curiously with the
elegant disorder of her sister's surroundings.
Papillon clapped her hands at sight of the large plum cake, the jug of
milk, and bowl of blackberry conserve.
"I was so hungry," she said, apologetically, after Denzil had supplied her
with generous slices of cake, and large spoonfuls of jam. "I did not know
that Nonconformists had such nice things to eat."
"Did you think we all lay in gaol to suffer cold and hunger for the faith
that is in us, like that poor preacher at Bedford?" asked Lady Warner,
bitterly. "It will come to that some day, perhaps, under the new Act."
"Will you show Mistress Kirkland your house, mother, and your dairy?"
Denzil asked hurriedly. "I know she would like to see one of the neatest
dairies in Oxfordshire."
No request could be more acceptable to Lady Warner, who was a housekeeper
first and a controversialist afterwards. Inclined as she was to rail
against the Church of Rome--partly because she had made up her mind upon
hearsay, chiefly Miltonian, that Roman Catholicism was only another name
for image-worship and martyr-burning, and partly on account of the favour
that had been shown to Papists, as compared with the cruel treatment of
Nonconformists--still there was a charm in Angela's gentle beauty against
which the daughterless matron could not steel her heart. She melted in the
space of a quarter of an hour, while Denzil was encouraging Henriette to
over-eat herself, and trying to persuade Angela to taste this or that
dainty, or reproaching her for taking so little; and by the time the child
had finished her copious meal, Lady Warner was telling herself how dearly
she might have loved this girl for a daughter-in-law, were it not for that
fatal objection of a corrupt and pernicious creed.
No! Lovely as she was, modest, refined, and in all things worthy to be
loved, the question of creed must be a stumbling-block. And then there were
other objections. Rural gossip, the loose talk of servants, had brought a
highly coloured description of Lady Fareham's household to her neighbour's
ears. The extravagant splendour, the waste and idleness, the late hours,
the worship of pleasure, the visiting, the singing, and dancing, and
junketing, and worst of all, the too-indulgent friendship shown to a
Parisian fopling, had formed the subject of conversation in many an
assembly of pious ladies, and hands and eyebrows had been uplifted at the
iniquities of Chilton Abbey, as second only to the monstrous goings-on of
the Court at Oxford.
Almost ever since the Restoration Lady Warner had been living in meek
expectancy of fire from heaven; and the chastisement of this memorable year
had seemed to her the inevitable realisation of her fears. The fiery rain
had come down--impalpable, invisible, leaving its deadly tokens in burning
plague spots, the forerunners of death. That the contagion had mostly
visited that humbler class of persons who had been strangers to the
excesses and pleasures of the Court made nothing against Lady Warner's
conviction that this scourge was Heaven's vengeance upon fashionable vice.
Her son had brought her stories of the life at Whitehall, terrible pictures
of iniquity, conveyed in the scathing words of one who sat apart, in a
humble lodging, where for him the light of day came not, and heard with
disgust and horror of that wave of debauchery which had swept over the city
he loved, since the triumph of the Royalists. And Lady Warner had heard the
words of Milton, and had listened with a reverence as profound as if the
blind poet had been the prophet of Israel, alone in his place of hiding,
holding himself aloof from an idolatrous monarch and a wicked people.
And now her son had brought her this fair girl, upon whom he had set his
foolish hopes, a Papist, and the sister of a woman whose ways were the
ways of--! A favourite scriptural substantive closed the sentence in Lady
No; it might not be. Whatever power she had over her son must be used
against his Papistical syren. She would treat her with courtesy, show her
house and dairy, and there an end. And so they repaired to the offices,
with Papillon running backwards and forwards as they went along, exclaiming
and questioning, delighted with the shining oak floors and great oak chests
in the corridor, and the armour in the hall, where, as the sacred and
central object, hung the breastplate Sir George Warner wore when he fell at
Hopton Heath, dinted by sword and pike, as the enemy's horse rode him down
in the _melee_. His orange scarf, soiled and torn, was looped across the
steel cuirass. Papillon admired everything, most of all the great cool
dairy, which had once been a chapel, and where the piscina was converted to
a niche for a polished brass milk-can, to the horror of Angela, who could
say no word in praise of a place that had been created by the profanation
of holy things. A chapel turned into a storehouse for milk and butter! Was
this how Protestants valued consecrated places? An awe-stricken silence
came upon her, and she was glad when Denzil remembered that they would have
barely time to walk back to the Abbey before the two o'clock dinner.
"You keep Court hours even in the country," said Lady Warner. "I dined half
an hour before you came."
"I don't care if I have no dinner to-day," said Papillon; "but I hope I
shall be able to eat a mince pie. Why don't you love mince pies, madam?
He"--pointing to Denzil--"says you do not."
THE PRIEST'S HOLE.
Denzil dined at the Abbey, where he was always made welcome. Lady Fareham
had been warmly insistent upon his presence at their Christmas gaieties.
"We want to show you a Cavalier's Christmas," she told him at dinner, he
seated at her side in the place of honour, while Angela sat at the other
end of the table between Fareham and De Malfort. "For ourselves we care
little for such simple sports: but for the poor folk and the children Yule
should be a season to be remembered for good cheer and merriment through
all their slow, dull year. Poor wretches! I think of their hard life
sometimes, and wonder they don't either drown themselves or massacre us."
"They are like the beasts of the field, Lady Fareham. They have learnt
patience from the habit of suffering. They are born poor, and they die
poor. It is happy for us that they are not learned enough to consider the
inequalities of fortune, or we should have the rising of want against
abundance, a bitterer strife, perhaps, than the strife of adverse creeds,
which made Ireland so bloody a spectacle for the world's wonder thirty
"Well, we shall make them all happy this afternoon; and there will be a
supper in the great stone barn which will acquaint them with abundance for
this one evening at least," answered Hyacinth, gaily.
"We are going to play games after dinner!" cried Henriette, from her place
at her father's elbow.
His lordship was the only person who ever reproved her seriously, yet she
loved him best of all her kindred or friends.
"Aunt Angy is going to play hide-and-seek with us. Will you play, Sir
"I shall think myself privileged if I may join in your amusements."
"What a courteous speech! You will be cutting off your pretty curly hair,
and putting on a French perruque, like his"--pointing to De Malfort.
"Please do not. You would be like everybody else in London--and now you are
only like yourself--and vastly handsome."
"Hush, Henriette! you are much too pert," remonstrated Fareham.
"But 'tis the very truth, father. All the women who visit mother paint
their faces, so that they are all alike; and all the men talk alike,
so that I don't know one from t'other, except Lord Rochester, who is
impudenter and younger than the others, and gives me more sugar-plums and
pays me prettier compliments than anybody else."
"Hold your tongue, mistress! A dinner-table is no place for pert children.
Thy brother there has better manners," said her father, pointing to the
cherubic son and heir, whose ideas were concentrated upon a loaded plate of
"You mean that he is greedier than I," retorted Papillon. "He will eat till
he won't be able to run about with us after dinner; and then he will sprawl
upon mother's satin train by the fire, with Ganymede and Phosphor, and she
will tell everybody how good and gentle he is, and how much better bred
than his sister. And now, if people are _ever_ going to leave off eating,
we may as well begin our games before it is quite dark. Perhaps _you_ are
ready, auntie, if nobody else is."
Dinner may have ended a little quicker for this speech, although Papillon
was sternly suppressed, and bade to keep silence or leave the table. She
obeyed so far as to make no further remarks, but expressed her contempt for
the gluttony of her elders by several loud yawns, and bounced up out of her
seat, like a ball from a racket, directly the little gentleman in black
sitting near his lordship had murmured a discreet thanksgiving. This
gentleman was the Roman Catholic priest from Oxford, who had said Mass
early that morning in the muniment room, and had been invited to his
lordship's table in honour of the festival.
Papillon led all the games, and ordered everybody about. Mrs. Dorothy
Lettsome, the young lady who was sorry she had not had the honour to be
born in France, was of the party, with her brother, honest Dan Lettsome, an
Oxfordshire squire, who had been in London only once in his life, to see
the Coronation, and had nearly lost his life, as well as his purse
and jewellery, in a tavern, after that august ceremonial. This bitter
experience had given him a distaste for the pleasures of the town which his
poor sister deplored exceedingly; since she was dependent upon his coffers,
and subject to his authority, and had no hope of leaving Oxfordshire unless
she were fortunate enough to find a town-bred husband.
These two joined in the sports with ardour, Squire Dan glad to be moving
about, rather than to sit still and listen to music which he hated, or to
conversation to which he could contribute neither wit nor sense, unless the
kennel or the gun-room were the topic under discussion. The talk of a lady
and gentleman who had graduated in the salons of the Hotel de Rambouillet
was a foreign language to him; and he told his sister that it was all one
to him whether Lady Fareham and the Mounseer talked French or English,
since it was quite as hard to understand 'em in one language as in t'other.
Papillon, this rustic youth adored. He knew no greater pleasure than to
break and train a pony for her, to teach her the true knack of clearing a
hedge, to explain the habits and nature of those vermin in whose lawless
lives she was deeply interested--rats, weasels, badgers, and such-like--to
attend her when she hunted, or flew her peregrine.
"If you will marry me, sweetheart, when you are of the marrying age, I
would rather wait half a dozen years for you than have the best woman in
Oxfordshire that I know of at this present."
"Marry you!" cried Lord Fareham's daughter. "Why, I shall marry no one
under an earl; and I hope it will be a duke or a marquis. Marchioness is
a pretty title: it sounds better than duchess, because it is in three
syllables--mar-chion-ess," with an affected drawl. "I am going to be very
beautiful. Mrs. Hubbuck says so, and mother's own woman; and I heard that
painted old wretch, Mrs. Lewin, tell mother so. 'Eh, gud, your la'ship, the
young miss will be almost as great a beauty as your la'ship's self!' Mrs.
Lewin always begins her speeches with 'Eh, gud!' or 'What devil!' But I
hope I shall be handsomer than _mother_" concluded Papillon, in a tone
which implied a poor opinion of the maternal charms.
And now on this Christmas evening, in the thickening twilight of the
rambling old house, through long galleries, crooked passages, queer
little turns at right angles, rooms opening out of rooms, half a dozen
in succession, Squire Dan led the games, ordered about all the time by
Papillon, whom he talked of admiringly as a high-mettled filly, declaring
that she had more tricks than the running-horse he was training for
De Malfort, after assisting in their sports for a quarter of an hour with
considerable spirit, had deserted them, and sneaked off to the great
saloon, where he sat on the Turkey carpet at Lady Fareham's feet, singing
chansonettes to his guitar, while George and the spaniels sprawled beside
him, the whole group making a picture of indolent enjoyment, fitfully
lighted by the blaze of a yule log that filled the width of the chimney.
Fareham and the Priest were playing chess at the other end of the long low
room, by the light of a single candle.
Papillon ran in at the door and ejaculated her disgust at De Malfort's
"Was there ever such laziness? It's bad enough in Georgie to be so idle;
but then,_ he_ has over-eaten himself."
"And how do you know that I haven't over-eaten myself, mistress?" asked De
"You never do that; but you often drink too much--much, much, much too
"That's a slanderous thing to say of your mother's most devoted servant,"
laughed De Malfort. "And pray how does a baby-girl like you know when a
gentleman has been more thirsty than discreet?"
"By the way you talk--always French. Jarni! ch'dame, n'savons joui d'
n'belle s'ree--n'fam-partie d'ombre. Moi j'ai p'du n'belle f'tune,
p'rol'd'nneur! You clip your words to nothing. Aren't you coming to play
"Not I, fair slanderer. I am a salamander, and love the fire."
"Is that a kind of Turk? Good-bye. I'm going to hide."
"Beware of the chests in the gallery, sweetheart," said her father, who
heard only this last sentence, as his daughter ran past him towards the
door. "When I was in Italy I was told of a bride who hid herself in an old
dower-chest, on her wedding-day--and the lid clapped to with a spring and
kept her there for half a century."
"There's no spring that ever locksmith wrought that will keep down
Papillon," cried De Malfort, sounding a light accompaniment to his words on
the guitar strings, with delicatest touch, like fairy music.
"I know of better hiding-places," answered the child, and vanished, banging
the great door behind her.
She found her aunt with Dorothy Lettsome and her brother and Denzil in
the gallery above stairs, walking up and down, and listening with every
indication of weariness to the Squire's discourse about his hunters and
"Now we are going to have real good sport!" cried Papillon. "Aunt Angy and
I are to hide, and you three are to look for us. You must stop in this
gallery for ten minutes by the French clock yonder--with the door shut. You
must give us ten minutes' law, Mr. Lettsome, as you did the hare the other
day, when I was out with you--and then you may begin to look for us.
"Stay, little miss, you will be outside the house belike, roaming lord
knows where; in the shrubberies, or the barns, or halfway to Oxford--while
we are made fools of here."
"No, no. We will be inside the house."
"Do you promise that, pretty lady?"
"Yes, I promise."
Mrs. Dorothy suggested that there had been enough of childish play, and
that it would be pleasanter to sit in the saloon with her ladyship, and
hear Monsieur de Malfort sing.
"I'll wager he was singing when you saw him just now."
"Yes, he is always singing foolish French songs--and I'm sure you can't
"I've learnt the French ever since I was as old as you, Mistress
"Ah! that was too late to begin. People who learn French out of books know
what it looks like, but not what it sounds like."
"I should be very sorry if I could not understand a French ballad, little
"Would you--would you, really?" cried Papillon, her face alight with impish
mirth. "Then, of course, you understand this--
Oh, la d'moiselle, comme elle est sot-te,
Eh, je me moque de sa sot-ti-se!
Eh, la d'moiselle, comme elle est be-te,
Eh, je m'ris de sa be-ti-se!"
She sang this impromptu nonsense _prestissimo_ as she danced out of the
room, leaving the accomplished Dorothy vexed and perplexed at not having
understood a single word.
It was nearly an hour later when Denzil entered the saloon hurriedly, pale
and perturbed of aspect, with Dorothy and her brother following him.
"We have been hunting all over the house for Mrs. Angela and Henriette,"
Denzil said, and Fareham started up from the chess-table, scared at the
young man's agitated tone and pallid countenance. "We have looked in every
"In every closet," interrupted Dorothy.
"In every corner of the staircases and passages," said Squire Dan.
"Can your lordship help us? There may be places you know of which we do not
know?" said Denzil, his voice trembling a little. "It is alarming that they
should be so long in concealment. We have called to them in every part of
Fareham hurried to the door, taking instant alarm--anxious, pale, alert.
"Come!" he said to the others. "The oak chests in the music-room--the great
Florentine coffer in the gallery? Have you looked in those?"
"Yes; we have opened every chest."
"Faith, to see Sir Denzil turn over piles of tapestries, you would have
thought he was looking for a fairy that could hide in the folds of a
curtain!" said Lettsome.
"It is no theme for jesting. I hate these tricks of hiding in strange
corners," said Fareham. "Now, show me where they left you."
"In the long gallery."
"They have gone up to the roof, perhaps."
"We have been in the roof," said Denzil.
"I have scarcely recovered my senses after the cracked skull I got from one
of your tie-beams," added Lettsome; and Fareham saw that both men had
their doublets coated with dust and cobwebs, in a manner which indicated a
remorseless searching of places unvisited by housemaids and brooms.
Mrs. Dorothy, with a due regard for her dainty lace kerchief and ruffles,
and her cherry silk petticoat, had avoided these loathly places, the abode
of darkness, haunted by the fear of rats.
Fareham tramped the house from cellar to garret, Denzil alone accompanying
"We want no posse comitatus," he had said, somewhat discourteously. "You,
Squire, had best go and mend your cracked head in the eating-parlour with
a brimmer or two of clary wine; and you, Mrs. Dorothy, can go and keep her
ladyship company. But not a word of our fright. Swoons and screaming would
only hinder us."
He took Mrs. Lettsome's arm, and led her to the staircase, pushing the
Squire after her, and then turned his anxious countenance to Denzil.
"If they are not to be found in the house, they must be found outside the
house. Oh, the folly, the madness of it! A December night--snow on the
ground--a rising wind--another fall of snow, perhaps--and those two afoot
"I do not believe they are out-of-doors," Denzil answered. "Your daughter
promised that they would not leave the house."
"My daughter tells the truth. It is her chief virtue."
"And yet we have hunted in every hole and corner," said Denzil, dejectedly.
"Hole!" cried Fareham, almost in a shout. "Thou hast hit it, man! That one
word is a flash of lightning. The Priest's Hole! Come this way. Bring your
candle!" snatching up that which he had himself set down on a table, when
he stood still to deliberate. "The Priest's Hole? The child knew the secret
of it--fool that I was ever to show her. God! what a place to hide in on a
He was halfway up the staircase to the second story before he had uttered
the last of these exclamations, Denzil following him.
Suddenly, through the stillness of the house, there sounded a faint far-off
cry, the shrill thin sound of a child's voice. Fareham and Warner would
hardly have heard it had they not been sportsmen, with ears trained to
listen for distant sounds. No view-hallo sounding across miles of wood and
valley was ever fainter or more ethereal.
"You hear them?" cried Fareham. "Quick, quick!"
He led the way along a narrow gallery, about eight feet high, where people
had danced in Elizabeth's time, when the house was newly converted to
secular uses; and then into a room in which there were several iron chests,
the muniment room, where a sliding panel, of which the master of the house
knew the trick, revealed an opening in the wall. Fareham squeezed himself
through the gap, still carrying the tall iron candlestick, with flaring
candle, and vanished. Denzil followed, and found himself descending a
narrow stone staircase, very steep, built into an angle of the great
chimney, while as if from the bowels of the earth there came, louder at
every step, that shrill cry of distress, in a voice he could not doubt was
"The other is mute," groaned Fareham; "scared to death, perhaps, like a
frightened bird." And then he called, "I am coming. You are safe, love;
safe, safe!" And then he groaned aloud, "Oh, the madness, the folly of it!"
Halfway down the staircase there was a sudden gap of six feet, down which
Fareham dropped with his hands on the lowest stair, Denzil following; a
break in the continuity of the descent planned for the discomfiture of
strangers and the protection of the family hiding-place.
Fareham and Denzil were on a narrow stone landing at the bottom of the
house; and the child's wail of anguish changed to a joyous shriek, "Father,
father!" close in their ears. Fareham set his shoulder against the heavy
oak door, and it burst inwards. There had been no question of secret spring
or complicated machinery; but the great, clumsy door dragged upon its rusty
hinges, and the united strength of the two girls had not served to pull it
open, though Papillon, in her eagerness for concealment in the first fever
of hiding, had been strong enough to push the door till she had jammed it,
and thus made all after efforts vain.
"Father!" she cried, leaping into his arms, as he came into the room, large
enough to hold six-men standing upright; but a hideous den in which to
perish alone in the dark. "Oh, father! I thought no one would ever find us.
I was afraid we should have died like the Italian lady--and people would
have found our skeletons and wondered about us. I never was afraid before.
Not when the great horse reared as high as a house--and her ladyship
screamed. I only laughed then--but to-night I have been afraid."
Fareham put her aside without looking at her.
"Angela! Great God! She is dead!"
No, she was not dead, only in a half swoon, leaning against the angle of
the wall, ghastly white in the flare of the candles. She was not quite
unconscious. She knew whose strong arms were holding her, whose lips were
so near her own, whose head bent suddenly upon her breast, leaning against
the lace kerchief, to listen for the beating of her heart.
She made a great effort to relieve his fear, understanding dimly that he
thought her dead; but could only murmur broken syllables, till he carried
her up three or four stairs, to a secret door that opened into the garden.
There in the wintry air, under the steely light of wintry stars, her senses
came back to her. She opened her eyes and looked at him.
"I am sorry I have not Papillon's courage," she said.
"Tu m'as donne une affreuse peur--je te croyais morte," muttered Fareham,
letting his arms drop like lead as she released herself from their support.
Denzil and Henriette were close to them. They had come to the open door
for fresh air, after the charnel-like chill and closeness of the small
"Father is angry with me," said the girl; "he won't speak to me."
"Angry! no, no;" and he bent to kiss her. "But oh, child, the folly of it!
She might have died--you too--found just an hour too late."
"It would have taken a long time to kill me," said Papillon; "but I was
very cold, and my teeth were chattering, and I should soon have been
hungry. Have you had supper yet?"
"Nobody has even thought of supper."
"I am glad of that. And I may have supper with you, mayn't I, and eat what
I like, because it's Christmas, and because I might have been starved to
death in the Priest's Hole. But it was a good hiding-place, tout de meme.
Who guessed at last?"
"The only person who knew of the place, child. And now, remember, the
secret is to be kept. Your dungeon may some day save an honest man's life.
You must tell nobody where you were hid."
"But what shall I say when they ask me? I must not tell them a story."
"Say you were hidden in the great chimney--which is truth; for the Priest's
Hole is but a recess at the back of the chimney. And you, Warner," turning
to Denzil, who had not spoken since the opening of the door, "I know you'll
keep the secret."
"Yes. I will keep your secret," Denzil answered, cold as ice; and said no
They walked slowly round the house by the terrace, where the clipped yews
stood out like obelisks against the bleak bright sky. Papillon ran and
skipped at her father's side, clinging to him, expatiating upon her
sufferings in the dust and darkness. Denzil followed with, Angela, in a
LIGHTER THAN VANITY.
"I think father must be a witch," Henriette said at dinner next day, "or
why did he tell me of the Italian lady who was shut in the dower-chest,
just before Angela and I were lost in"--she checked herself at a look from
his lordship--"in the chimney?"
"It wants no witch to tell that little girls are foolish and mischievous,"
"You ladies must have been vastly black when you came out of your
hiding-place," said De Malfort. "I should have been sorry to see so much
beauty disguised in soot. Perhaps Mrs. Kirkland means to appear in the
character of a chimney at our next Court masquerade. She would cause as
great a stir as Lady Muskerry, in all her Babylonian splendour; but for
other reasons. Nothing could mitigate the Muskerry's ugliness; and no
disguise could hide Mrs. Angela's beauty."
"What would the costume be?" asked Papillon.
"Oh, something simple. A long black satin gown, and a brick-dust velvet
hat, tall and curiously twisted, like your Tudor chimney; and a cluster of
grey feathers on the top, to represent smoke."
"Monsieur le Comte makes a joke of everything. But what would father have
said if we had never been found?"
"I should have said that they are right who swear there is a curse upon all
property taken from the Church, and that the ban fell black and bitter upon
Chilton Abbey," answered his lordship's grave deep voice from the end of
the table, where he sat somewhat apart from the rest, gloomy and silent,
save when directly addressed.
Her ladyship and De Malfort had always plenty to talk about. They had the
past as well as the present for their discourse, and were always sighing
for the vanished glories of their youth--at Paris, at Fontainebleau, at St.
Germain. Nor were they restricted to the realities of the present and the
memories of the past; they had that wider world of unreality in which to
circulate; they had the Scudery language at the tips of their tongues,
the fantastic sentimentalism of that marvellous old maid who invented the
seventeenth-century hero and heroine; or who crystallised the vanishing
figures of that brilliant age and made them immortal. All that little
language of toyshop platonics had become a natural form of speech with
these two, bred and educated in the Marais, while it was still the select
and aristocratic quarter of Paris.
To-day Hyacinth and her old playfellow had been chattering like children,
or birds in an aviary, and with little more sense in their conversation;
but at this talk of the Church's ban, Hyacinth stopped in her prattle and
was almost serious.
"I sometimes think we shall have bad luck in this house," she said, "or
that we shall see the ghosts of the wicked monks who were turned out to
make room for Fareham's great-grandfather."
"Tush, child! what do you know of their wickedness, after a century?"
"They were very wicked, I believe, for it was one of those quiet little
monasteries where the monks could do all manner of evil things, and raise
the devil, if they liked, without anybody knowing. And when Henry the
Eighth sent his Commissioners, they were taken by surprise; and the altar
at which they worshipped Beelzebub was found in a side chapel, and a
wax figure of the King stuck with arrows, like St. Sebastian. The Abbot
pretended it _was_ St. Sebastian; but nobody believed him."
"Nobody wanted to believe him," said Fareham. "King Henry made an example
of Chilton Abbey, and gave it to my worthy ancestor, who was a fourth
cousin of Jane Seymour's, and had turned Protestant to please his royal
master. He went back to the Church of Rome on his death-bed, and we Revels
have been Papists ever since. I wish the Church joy of us!"
"The Church has neither profit nor honour from you," said his wife, shaking
her fan at him. "You seldom go to Mass; you never go to confession."
"I would rather keep my sins to myself, and atone for them by the pangs of
a wounded conscience. That is too easy a religion which shifts the burden
of guilt on to the shoulders of a stipendiary priest, and walks away from
the confessional absolved by the payment of a few extra prayers."
"I believe you are either an infidel or a Puritan."
"A cross between the two, perhaps--a mongrel in religion, as I am a mongrel
Angela looked up at him with sad eyes--reproachful, yet full of pity. She
remembered his wild talk, semi-delirious some of it, all feverish and
excited, during his illness, and how she had listened with aching heart to
the ravings of one so near death, and so unfit to die. And now that the
pestilence had passed him by, now that he was a strong man again, with half
a lifetime before him, her heart was still heavy for him. She who sat in
the theatre of life as a spectator had discovered that her sister's husband
was not happy. The trifles that delighted Hyacinth left Fareham unamused
and discontented; and his wife knew not that there was anything wanting to
his felicity. She could go on prattling like a child, could be in a fever
about a fan or a bunch of ribbons, could talk for an hour of a new play or
the contents of the French _Gazette_, while he sat gloomy and apart.
The sympathy, the companionship that should be in marriage was wanting
here. Angela saw and deplored this distance, scarce daring to touch so
delicate a theme, fearful lest she, the younger, should seem to sermonise
the elder; and yet she could not be silent for ever while duty and religion
urged her to speak.
At Chilton Abbey the sisters were rarely alone. Papillon was almost always
with them; and De Malfort spent more of his life in attendance upon Lady
Fareham than at Oxford, where he was supposed to be living. Mrs. Lettsome
and her brother were frequent guests; and coach-loads of fine people
came over from the court almost every day. Indeed, it was only Fareham's
character--austere as Clarendon's or Southampton's--which kept the finest
of all company at a distance. Lady Castlemaine had called at Chilton in her
coach-and-four early in July; and her visit had not been returned--a slight
which the proud beauty bitterly resented: and from that time she had lost
no opportunity of depreciating Lady Fareham. Happily her jests, not over
refined in quality, had not been repeated to Hyacinth's husband.
One January afternoon the longed-for opportunity came. The sisters were
sitting alone in front of the vast mediaeval chimney, where the Abbots of
old had burnt their surplus timber--Angela busy with her embroidery frame,
working a satin coverlet for her niece's bed; Hyacinth yawning over
a volume of Cyrus; in whose stately pages she loved to recognise the
portraits of her dearest friends, and for which she was a living key.
Angela was now familiar with the famous romance, which she had read with
deepest interest, enlightened by her sister. As an eastern story--a record
of battles and sieges evolved from a clever spinster's brain, an account of
men and women who had never lived--the book might have seemed passing dull;
but the story of actual lives, of living, breathing beauty, and valour that
still burnt in warrior breasts, the keen and clever analysis of men and
women who were making history, could not fail to interest an intelligent
girl, to whom all things in life were new.
Angela read of the siege of Dunkirk, where Fareham had fought; of the
tempestuous weather; the camp in the midst of salt marshes and quicksands,
and all the sufferings and perils of life in the trenches. He had been
in more than one of those battles which mademoiselle's conscientious pen
depicted with such graphic power, the _Gazette_ at her elbow as she wrote.
The names of battles, sieges, Generals, had been on his lips in his
delirious ravings. He had talked of the taking of Charenton, the key to
Paris, a stronghold dominating Seine and Marne; of Clanleu, the brave
defender of the fortress; of Chatillon, who led the charge--both killed
there--Chatillon, the friend of Conde, who wept bitterest tears for a loss
that poisoned victory. Read by these lights, the "Grand Cyrus" was a book
to be pored over, a book to bend over in the grey winter dusk, reading
by the broad blaze of the logs that flamed and crackled on wrought-iron
standards. Just as merrily the blaze had spread its ruddy light over the
room when it was a monkish refectory, and when the droning of a youthful
brother reading aloud to the fraternity as they ate their supper was the
only sound, except the clattering of knives and grinding of jaws.
Now the room was her ladyship's drawing-room, bright with Gobelins
tapestry, dazzling with Venetian mirrors, gaudy with gold and colour, the
black oak floor enlivened by many-hued carpets from our new colony of
Tangiers. Fareham told his wife that her Moorish carpets had cost the
country fifty times the price she had paid for them, and were associated
with an irrevocable evil in the existence of a childless Queen; but that
piece of malice, Hyacinth told him, had no foundation but his hatred of the
Duke, who had always been perfectly civil to him.
"Of two profligate brothers I prefer the bolder sinner," said Fareham.
"Bigotry and debauchery are an ill mixture."
"I doubt if his Majesty frets for the want of an heir," remarked De
Malfort. "He is not a family man."
"He is not a one family man, Count," answered Fareham.
Fareham and De Malfort were both away on this January evening. Papillon was
taking a dancing lesson from a wizened old Frenchman, who brought himself
and his fiddle from Oxford twice a week for the damsel's instruction. Mrs.
Priscilla, nurse and _gouvernante_, attended these lessons, at which the
Honourable Henrietta Maria Revel gave herself prodigious airs, and was
indeed so rude to the poor old professor that her aunt had declined to
assist at any more performances.
"Has his lordship gone to Oxford?" Angela asked, after a silence broken
only by her sister's yawns.
"I doubt he is anywhere rather than in such good company," Hyacinth
answered, carelessly. "He hates the King, and would like to preach at him,
as John Knox did at his great-grandmother. Fareham is riding, or roving
with his dogs, I dare say. He has a gloomy taste for solitude."
"Hyacinth, do you not see that he is unhappy?" Angela asked, suddenly, and
the pain in her voice startled her sister from the contemplation of the
"Unhappy, child! What reason has he to be unhappy?"
"Ah, dearest, it is that I would have you discover. 'Tis a wife's business
to know what grieves her husband."
"Unless it be Mrs. Lewin's bill--who is an inexorable harpy--I know of no
act of mine that can afflict him."
"I did not mean that his gloom was caused by any act of yours, sister. I
only urge you to discover why he is so sad."
"Sad? Sullen, you mean. He has a fine, generous nature. I am sure it is not
Lewin's charges that trouble him. But he had always a sullen temper--by
fits and starts."
"But of late he has been always silent and gloomy."
"How the child watches him! Ma tres chere, that silence is natural. There
are but two things Fareham loves--the first, war; the second, sport. If he
cannot be storming a town, he loves to be killing a fox. This fireside life
of ours--our books and music, our idle talk of plays and dances--wearies
him. You may see how he avoids us--except out-of-doors."
"Dear Hyacinth, forgive me!" Angela began, falteringly, leaving her
embroidery frame and moving to the other side of the hearth, where she
dropped on her knees by her ladyship's chair, and was almost swallowed up
in the ample folds of her brocade train. "Is it not possible that Lord
Fareham is pained to see you so much gayer and more familiar with Monsieur
de Malfort than you ever are with him?"
"Gayer! more familiar!" cried Hyacinth. "Can you conceive any creature
gay and familiar with Fareham? One could as soon be gay with Don Quixote;
indeed, there is much in common between the knight of the rueful
countenance and my husband. Gay and familiar! And pray, mistress, why
should I not take life pleasantly with a man who understands me, and in
whose friendship I have grown up almost as if we were brother and sister?
Do you forget that I have known Henri ever since I was ten years old--that
we played battledore and shuttlecock together in our dear garden in the Rue
de Touraine, next the bowling-green, when he was at school with the Jesuit
Fathers, and used to spend all his holiday afternoons with the Marquise?
I think I only learnt to know the saints' days because they brought me my
playfellow. And when I was old enough to attend the Court--and, indeed,
I was but a child when I first appeared there--it was Henri who sang my
praises, and brought a crowd of admirers about me. Ah, what a life it was!
Love in the city, and war at the gates: plots, battles, barricades! How
happy we all were! except when there came the news of some great man
killed, and walls were hung with black, where there had been a thousand wax
candles and a crowd of dancers. Chatillon, Chabot, Laval! _Helas_, those
were sad losses!"
"Dear sister, I can understand your affection for an old friend, but I
would not have you place him above your husband; least of all would I have
his lordship suspect that you preferred the friend to the husband----"
"Suspect! Fareham! Are you afraid I shall make Fareham jealous, because
I sing duets and cudgel these poor brains to make _bouts rimes_ with De
Malfort? Ah, child, how little those watchful eyes of yours have discovered
the man's character! Fareham jealous! Why, at St. Germain he has seen me
surrounded by adorers; the subject of more madrigals than would fill a big
book. At the Louvre he has seen me the--what is that Mr. What's-his-name,
your friend's old school-master, the Republican poet, calls it--'the
cynosure of neighbouring eyes.' Don't think me vain, ma mie. I am an old
woman now, and I hate my looking-glass ever since it has shown me my
first wrinkle; but in those days I had almost as many admirers as Madame
Henriette, or the Princess Palatine, or the fair-haired Duchess. I was
called la belle Anglaise."
It was difficult to sound a warning-note in ears so obstinately deaf to
all serious things. Papillon came bounding in after her dancing-lesson--
"The little beast has taught me a new step in the coranto. See, mother,"
and the slim small figure was drawn up to its fullest, and the thin little
lithe arms were curved with a studied grace, as Papillon slid and tripped
across the room, her dainty little features illumined by a smirk of
"Henriette, you are an ill-bred child to call your master so rude a name,"
remonstrated her mother, languidly.
"'Tis the name you called him last week when his dirty shoes left marks
on the stairs. He changes his shoes in my presence," added Papillon,
disgustedly. "I saw a hole in his stocking. Monsieur de Malfort calls him
LADY FAREHAM'S DAY.
A month later the _Oxford Gazette_ brought Lady Fareham the welcomest news
that she had read for ever so long. The London death-rate had decreased,
and his Majesty had gone to Hampton Court, attended by the Duke and Prince
Rupert, Lord Clarendon, and his other indispensable advisers, and a retinue
of servants, to be within easy distance of that sturdy soldier Albemarle,
who had remained in London, unafraid of the pestilence; and who declared
that while it was essential for him to be in frequent communication with
his Majesty, it would be perilous to the interests of the State for him to
absent himself from London; for the Dutch war had gone drivelling on ever
since the victory in June, and that victory was not to be supposed final.
Indeed, according to the General, there was need of speedy action and a
considerable increase of our naval strength.
Windsor had been thought of in the first place as a residence for the King;
but the law courts had been transferred there, and the judges and their
following had overrun the town, while there was a report of an infected
house there. So it had been resolved that his Majesty should make a brief
residence at Hampton Court, leaving the Queen, the Duchess, and their
belongings at Oxford, whither he could return as soon as the business of
providing for the setting out of the fleet had been arranged between him
and the General, who could travel in a day backwards and forwards between
the Cockpit and Wolsey's palace.
When this news came they were snowed up at Chilton. Sport of all kinds had
been stopped, and Fareham, who, in his wife's parlance, lived in his boots
all the winter, had to amuse himself without the aid of horse and hound;
while even walking was made difficult by the snowdrifts that blocked
the lanes, and reduced the face of Nature to one muffled and monotonous
whiteness, while all the edges of the landscape were outlined vaguely
against the misty greyness of the sky.
Hyacinth spent her days half in yawning and sighing, and half in idle
laughter and childish games with Henriette and De Malfort. When she was gay
she was as much a child as her daughter; when she was fretful and hipped,
it was a childish discontent.
They played battledore and shuttlecock in the picture-gallery, and my lady
laughed when her volant struck some reverend judge or venerable bishop a
rap on the nose. They sat for hours twanging guitars, Hyacinth taking her
music-lesson from De Malfort, whose exquisite taste and touch made a guitar
seem a different instrument from that on which his pupil's delicate fingers
nipped a wiry melody, more suggestive of finger-nails than music.
He taught her, and took all possible pains in the teaching, and laughed at
her, and told her plainly that she had no talent for music. He told her
that in her hands the finest lute Laux Maler ever made, mellowed by three
centuries, would be but wood and catgut.
"It is the prettiest head in the world, and a forehead as white as Queen
Anne's," he said one day, with a light touch on the ringletted brow, "but
there is nothing inside. I wonder if there is anything here?" and the same
light touch fluttered for an instant against her brocade bodice, at the
spot where fancy locates the faculty of loving and suffering.
She laughed at his rude speeches, just as she laughed at his flatteries--as
if there were safety in that atmosphere of idle mirth. Angela heard and
wondered, wondering most perhaps what occupied and interested Lord Fareham
in those white winter days, when he lived for the greater part alone in his
own rooms, or pacing the long walks from which the gardeners had cleared
the snow. He spent some of his time indoors, deep in a book. She knew as
much as that. He had allowed Angela to read some of his favourites, though
he would not permit any of the new comedies, which everybody at Court was
reading, to enter his house, much to Lady Fareham's annoyance.
"I am half a century behind all my friends in intelligence," she said,
"because of your Puritanism. One tires of your everlasting gloomy
tragedies--your _Broken Hearts_ and _Philasters_. I am all for the genius
"Then satisfy your inclinations, and read Moliere. He is second only to
"I have him by heart already."
The _Broken Heart_ and _Philaster_ delighted Angela; indeed, she had read
the latter play so often, and with such deep interest, that many passages
in it had engraved themselves on her memory, and recurred to her sometimes
in the silence of wakeful nights.
That character of Bellario touched her as no heroine of the "Grand Cyrus"
had power to move her. How elaborately artificial seemed the Scudery's
polished tirades, her refinements and quintessences of the grand passion,
as compared with the fervid simplicity of the woman-page--a love so humble,
so intense, so unselfish!