Part 4 out of 9
Sir Denzil came to Chilton nearly every day, and was always graciously
received by her ladyship. His Puritan gravity fell away from him like a
pilgrim's cloak, in the light air of Hyacinth's amusements. He seemed to
grow younger; and Henriette's sharp eyes discovered an improvement in his
"This is your second new suit since Christmas," she said, "and I'll swear
it is made by the King's tailor. Regardez done, madame! What exquisite
embroidery, silver and gold thread intermixed with little sparks of garnets
sewn in the pattern! It is better than anything of his lordship's. I wish I
had a father who dressed well. I'm sure mine must be the shabbiest lord at
Whitehall. You have no right to be more modish than monsieur mon pere, Sir
"Hold that insolent tongue, p'tit drole!" cried the mother. "Sir Denzil is
younger by a dozen years than his lordship, and has his reputation to make
at Court, and with the ladies he will meet there. I hope you are coming to
London, Denzil. You shall have a seat in one of our coaches as soon as the
death-rate diminishes, and this odious weather breaks up."
"Your ladyship is all goodness. I shall go where my lode-star leads,"
answered Denzil, looking at Angela, and blushing at the audacity of his
He was one of those modest lovers who rarely bring a blush to the cheek of
the beloved object, but are so poor-spirited as to do most of the blushing
A week later Lady Fareham could do nothing but praise that severe weather
which she had pronounced odious, for her husband, coming in from Oxford
after a ride along the road, deep with melting snow, brought the news of a
considerable diminution in the London death-rate; and the more startling
news that his Majesty had removed to Whitehall for the quicker despatch of
business with the Duke of Albemarle, albeit the bills of mortality recorded
fifteen hundred deaths from the pestilence in the previous week, and
although not a carriage appeared in the deserted streets of the metropolis
except those in his Majesty's train.
"How brave, how admirable!" cried Hyacinth, clapping her hands in the
exuberance of her joy. "Then we can go to London to-morrow, if horses and
coaches can be made ready. Give your orders at once, Fareham, I beseech
you. The thaw has set in. There will be no snow to stop us."
"There will be floods which may make fords impassable."
"We can avoid every ford--there is always a _detour_ by the lanes."
"Have you any idea what the lanes will be like after two feet deep of snow?
Be sure, my love, you are happier twanging your lute by this fireside than
you would be stuck in a quagmire, perishing with cold in a windy coach."
"I will risk the quagmires and the windy coach. Oh, my lord, if you ever
loved me let us set out to-morrow. I languish for Fareham House--my
basset-table, my friends, my watermen to waft me to and fro between
Blackfriars and Westminster, the mercers in St. Paul's Churchyard, the
Middle Exchange. I have not bought myself anything pretty since Christmas.
Let us go to-morrow."
"And risk spoiling the prettiest thing you own--your face--by a
"The King is there--the plague is ended."
"Do you think he is a God, that the pestilence will flee at his coming?"
"I think his courage is godlike. To be the first to return to that
"What of Monk and the Archbishop, who never left it?"
"A rough old soldier! A Churchman! Such lives were meant to face danger.
But his Majesty! A man for whom existence should be one long holiday?"
"He has done his best to make it so; but the pestilence has shown him that
there are grim realities in life. Don't fret, dearest. We will go to town
as soon as it is prudent to make the move. Kings must brave great hazards;
and there is no reason that little people like us should risk our lives
because the necessities of State compel his Majesty to imperil his."
"We shall be laughed at if we do not hasten after him."
"Let them laugh who please. I have passed through the ordeal, Hyacinth. I
don't want a second attack of the sickness; nor would I for worlds that you
or your sister should run into the mouth of danger. Besides, you can lose
little pleasure by being absent; for the play-houses are all closed, and
the Court is in mourning for the French Queen-mother."
"Poor Queen Anne!" sighed Hyacinth. "She was always kind to me. And to
die of a cancer--after out-living those she most loved! King Louis would
scarcely believe she was seriously ill, till she was at the point of death.
But we know what mourning means at Whitehall--Lady Castlemaine in black
velvet, with forty thousand pounds in diamonds to enliven it; a concert
instead of a play, perhaps; and the King sitting in a corner whispering
with Mrs. Stewart. But as for the contagion, you will see that everybody
will rush back to London, and that you and I will be laughing-stocks."
The next week justified Lady Fareham's assertion. As soon as it was known
that the King had established himself at Whitehall, the great people came
back to their London houses, and the town began to fill. It was as if a God
had smiled upon the smitten city, and that healing and happiness radiated
from the golden halo round that anointed head. Was not this the monarch of
whom the most eloquent preacher of the age had written, "In the arms of
whose justice and wisdom we lie down in safety"?
London flung off her cerements--erased her plague-marks. The dead-cart's
dreadful bell no longer sounded in the silence of an afflicted city.
Coffins no longer stood at every other door; the pits at Finsbury, in
Tothill Fields, at Islington, were all filled up and trampled down; and the
grass was beginning to grow over the forgotten dead. The Judges came back
to Westminster. London was alive again--alive and healed; basking in the
sunshine of Royalty.
Nowhere was London more alive in the month of March than at Fareham
House on the Thames, where the Fareham liveries of green and gold showed
conspicuous upon his lordship's watermen, lounging about the stone steps
that led down to the water, or waiting in the terraced garden, which was
one of the finest on the river. Wherries of various weights and sizes
filled one spacious boathouse, and in another handsome stone edifice with
a vaulted roof Lord Fareham's barge lay in state, glorious in cream colour
and gold, with green velvet cushions and Oriental carpets, as splendid as
that blue-and-gold barge which Charles had sent as a present to Madame, a
vessel to out-glitter Cleopatra's galley, when her ladyship and her friends
and their singing-boys and musicians filled it for a voyage to Hampton
The barge was used on festive occasions, or for country voyages, as to
Hampton or Greenwich; the wherries were in constant requisition. Along
that shining waterway rank and fashion, commerce and business, were moving
backwards and forwards all day long. That more novel mode of transit, the
hackney coach, was only resorted to in foul weather; for the Legislature
had handicapped the coaching trade in the interests of the watermen, and
coaches were few and dear.
If Angela had loved the country, she was not less charmed with London
under its altered aspect. All this gaiety and splendour, this movement and
brightness, astonished and dazzled her.
"I am afraid I am very shallow-minded," she told Denzil when he asked her
opinion of London. "It seems an enchanted place, and I can scarcely believe
it is the same dreadful city I saw a few months ago, when the dead were
lying in the streets. Oh, how clearly it comes back to me--those empty
streets, the smoke of the fires, the wretched ragged creatures begging for
bread! I looked down a narrow court, and saw a corpse lying there, and
a child wailing over it; and a little way farther on a woman flung up a
window, and screamed out, 'Dead, dead! The last of my children is dead! Has
God no relenting mercy?'"
"It is curious," said Hyacinth, "how little the town seems changed after
all those horrors. I miss nobody I know."
"Nay, madam," said Denzil, "there have only died one hundred and sixty
thousand people, mostly of the lower classes; or at least that is the
record of the bills; but I am told the mortality has been twice as much,
for people have had a secret way of dying and burying their dead. If your
ladyship could have heard the account that Mr. Milton gave me this morning
of the sufferings he saw before he left London, you would not think the
visitation a light one."
"I wonder you consort with such a rebellious subject as Mr. Milton," said
Hyacinth. "A creature of Cromwell's, who wrote with hideous malevolence and
disrespect of the murdered King, who was in hiding for ever so long after
his Majesty's return, and who now escapes a prison only by the royal
"The King lacks only that culminating distinction of having persecuted the
greatest poet of the age in order to stand equal to the bigots who murdered
Giordano Bruno," said Denzil.
"The greatest poet! Sure you would not compare Milton with Waller?"
"Indeed I would not, Lady Fareham."
"Nor with Cowley, nor Denham--dear cracked-brained Denham?"
"Nor with Denham. To my fancy he stands as high above them as the pole-star
over your ladyship's garden lamps."
"A pamphleteer who has scribbled schoolboy Latin verses, and a few short
poems; and, let me see, a masque--yes, a masque that he wrote for Lord
Bridgewater's children before the troubles. I have heard my father talk of
it. I think he called the thing _Comus_."
"A name that will live, Lady Fareham, when Waller and Denham are shadows,
remembered only for an occasional couplet."
"Oh, but who cares what people will think two or three hundred years hence?
Waller's verses please us now. The people who come after me can please
themselves, and may read _Comus_ to their hearts' content. I know his
lordship reads Milton, as he does Shakespeare, and all the cramped old
play-wrights of Elizabeth's time. Henri, sing us that song of Waller's,
'Go, lovely rose.' I would give all Mr. Milton has written for that
They were sitting on the terrace above the river in the golden light of
an afternoon that was fair and warm as May, though by the calendar 'twas
March. The capricious climate had changed from austere winter to smiling
spring. Skylarks were singing over the fields at Hampstead, and over the
plague-pits at Islington, and all London was rejoicing in blue skies and
sunshine. Trade was awakening from a death-like sleep. The theatres were
closed; but there were plays acted now and then at Court. The New and the
Middle Exchange were alive with beribboned fops and painted belles.
It was Lady Fareham's visiting-day. The tall windows of her saloon were
open to the terrace, French windows that reached from ceiling to floor,
like those at the Hotel de Rambouillet, and which Hyacinth had substituted
for the small Jacobean casements, when she took possession of her husband's
ancestral mansion. Saloon and terrace were one on a balmy afternoon like
this; and her ladyship's guests wandered in and out at their pleasure. Her
lackeys, handing chocolate and cakes on silver or gold salvers, were so
many as to seem ubiquitous; and in the saloon, presided over by Angela,
there was a still choicer refreshment to be obtained at a tea-table, where
tiny cups of the new China drink were dispensed to those who cared for
"Prythee, take your guitar and sing to us, were it but to change the
conversation," cried Hyacinth; and De Malfort took up his guitar and began,
in the sweetest of tenors, "Go, lovely rose."
He had all her ladyship's visitors, chiefly feminine, round him before he
had finished the first verse. That gift of song, that exquisite touch upon
the Spanish guitar, were irresistible.
Lord Fareham landed at the lower flight of steps as the song ended, and
came slowly along the terrace, saluting his wife's friends with a grave
courtesy. He brought an atmosphere of silence and restraint with him, it
seemed to some of his wife's visitors, for the babble that usually follows
the end of a song was wanting.
Most of Lady Fareham's friends affected literature, and professed
familiarity with two books which had caught the public taste on opposite
sides of the Channel. In London people quoted Butler, and vowed there was
no wit so racy as the wit in "Hudibras." In Paris the cultured were all
striving to talk like Rochefoucauld's "Maxims," which had lately delighted
the Gallic mind by the frank cynicism that drew everybody's attention to
somebody else's failings.
"Himself the vainest of men, 'tis scarce wonderful that he takes vanity to
be the mainspring that moves the human species," said De Malfort, when some
one had found fault with the Duke's analysis.
"Oh, now we shall hear nothing but stale Rochefoucauldisms, sneers at love
and friendship, disparagement of our ill-used sex! Where has my grave
husband been, I wonder?" said Hyacinth. "Upon my honour, Fareham, your brow
looks as sombre as if it were burdened with the care of the nation."
"I have been with one who has to carry the greater part of that burden, my
lady, and my spirits may have caught some touch of his uneasiness."
"You have been prosing with that pragmatical personage at Dunkirk--nay, I
beg the Lord Chancellor's pardon, Clarendon House. Are not his marbles
and tapestries much finer than ours? And yet he began life as a sneaking
lawyer, the younger son of a small Wiltshire squire----"
"Lady Fareham, you allow your tongue too much licence----"
"Nay, I speak but the common feeling. Everybody is tired of a Minister who
is a hundred years behind the age. He should have lived under Elizabeth."
"A pretty woman should never talk politics, Hyacinth."
"Of what else can I talk when the theatres are closed, and you deny me the
privilege of seeing the last comedy performed at Whitehall? Is it not rank
tyranny in his lordship, Lady Sarah?" turning to one of her intimates, a
lady who had been a beauty at the court of Henrietta Maria in the beginning
of the troubles, and who from old habit still thought herself lovely and
beloved. "I appeal to your ladyship's common sense. Is it not monstrous to
deprive me of the only real diversion in the town? I was not allowed to
enter a theatre at all last year, except when his favourite Shakespeare or
Fletcher was acted, and that was but a dozen times, I believe."
"Oh, hang Shakespeare!" cried a gentleman whose periwig occupied nearly as
much space against the blue of a vernal sky as all the rest of his dapper
little person. "Gud, my lord, it is vastly old-fashioned in your lordship
to taste Shakespeare!" protested Sir Ralph Masaroon, shaking a cloud of
pulvilio out of his cataract of curls. "There was a pretty enough play
concocted t'other day out of two of his--a tragedy and comedy--_Measure for
Measure_ and _Much Ado about Nothing_, the interstices filled in with the
utmost ingenuity. But Shakespeare unadulterated--faugh!"
"I am a fantastical person, perhaps, Sir Ralph; but I would rather my
wife saw ten of Shakespeare's plays--in spite of their occasional
coarseness--than one of your modern comedies."
"I should revolt against such tyranny," said Lady Sarah. "I have always
appreciated Shakespeare, but I adore a witty comedy, and I never allowed my
husband to dictate to me on a question of taste."
"Plays which her Majesty patronises can scarcely be unfit entertainment for
her subjects," remarked another lady.
"Our Portuguese Queen is an excellent judge of the niceties of our
language," said Fareham. "I question if she understands five sentences in
as many acts."
"Nor should _I_ understand anything low or vulgar," said Hyacinth.
"Then, madam, you are best at home, for the whole entertainment would be
Hebrew to you."
"That cannot be," protested Lady Sarah; "for all our plays are written by
gentlemen. The hack writers of King James's time have been shoved aside. It
is the mark of a man of quality to write a comedy."
"It is a pity that fine gentlemen should write foul jests. Nay, it is a
subject I can scarce speak of with patience, when I remember what the
English stage has been, and hear what it is; when I recall what Lord
Clarendon has told me of his Majesty's father, for whom Shakespeare was
a closet companion, who loved all that was noblest in the drama of the
Elizabethan age. Time, which should have refined and improved the stage,
has sunk it in ignominy. We stand alone among nations in our worship of the
obscene. You have seen plays enough in Paris, Hyacinth. Recall the themes
that pleased you at the Marais and the Hotel de Bourgogne; the stories of
classic heroism, of Christian fortitude, of manhood and womanhood lifted
to the sublime. You who, in your girlhood, were familiar with the austere
genius of Corneille----"
"I am sick of that Frenchman's name," interjected Lady Sarah. "St. Evremond
was always praising him, and had the audacity to pronounce him superior to
Dryden; to compare _Cinna_ with the _Indian Queen_."
"A comparison which makes one sorry for Mr. Dryden," said Fareham. "I have
heard that Conde, when a young man, was affected to tears at the scene
between Augustus and his foe."
"He must have been very young," said Lady Fareham. "But I am not going to
depreciate Corneille, or to pretend that the French theatre is not vastly
superior to our own. I would only protest that if our laughter-loving King
prefers farce to tragedy, and rhyme to blankverse, his subjects should
accommodate themselves to his taste, and enjoy the plays he likes. It is a
foolish prejudice that deprives me of such a pleasure. I could always go in
"Can you put a mask upon your mind, and preserve that unstained in an
atmosphere of corruption? Indeed, your ladyship does not know what you
are asking for. To sit and simper through a comedy in which the filthiest
subjects are discussed in the vilest language; to see all that is foolish
or lascivious in your own sex exaggerated with a malignant licence, which
makes a young and beautiful woman an epitome of all the vices, uniting the
extreme of masculine profligacy with the extreme of feminine silliness.
Will you encourage by your presence the wretches who libel your sex? Will
you sit smiling to see your sisters in the pillory of satire?"
"I should smile as at a fairy tale. There are no such women among my
"And if the satire hits an enemy, it is all the more pungent," said Lady
"An enemy! The man who can so write of women is your worst enemy. The day
will come, perhaps, long after we are dust, when the women in _Epsom Wells_
will be thought pictures from life. 'Such an one,' people will say, as
they stand to read your epitaph, 'was this Lady Sarah, whose virtues are
recorded here in Latin superlatives. We know her better in the pages of
Lady Sarah paled under her rouge at that image of a tomb, as Fareham's
falcon eye singled her out in the light-hearted group of which De Malfort
was the central figure, sitting on the marble balustrade, in an easy
impertinent attitude, swinging his legs, and dandling his guitar. She was
less concerned at the thought of what posterity might say of her morals
than at the idea that she must inevitably die.
"Not a word against Shad," protested Sir Ralph. "I have roared with
laughter at his last play. Never did any one so hit the follies of town and
country. His rural Put is perfection; his London rook is to the very life."
"And if the generality of his female characters conduct themselves badly
there is always one heroine of irreproachable morals," said Lady Sarah.
"Who talks like a moral dragoon," said Fareham.
"Oh, dem, we must have the play-houses!" cried Masaroon. "Consider how dull
town is without them. They are the only assemblies that please quality and
riffraff alike. Sure 'tis the nature of wit to bubble into licentiousness,
as champagne foams over the rim of a glass; and, after all, who listens to
the play? Half the time one is talking to some adventurous miss, who will
swallow a compliment from a stranger if he offer it with a china orange.
Or, perhaps, there is quarrelling; and all our eyes and ears are on the
scufflers. One may ogle a pretty actress on the stage; but who listens to
the play, except the cits and commonalty?"
"And even they are more eyes than ears," said Lady Sarah, "and are gazing
at the King and Queen, or the Duke and Duchess, when they should be
'following an intrigue by Shadwell or Dryden."
"Pardieu!" exclaimed De Malfort, "there are tragedies and comedies in the
boxes deeper and more human than anything that is acted on the stage. To
watch the Queen, sitting silent and melancholy, while Madame Barbara lolls
across half a dozen people to talk to his Majesty, dazzling him with her
brilliant eyes, bewildering him by her daring speech. Or, on other nights
to see the same lady out of favour, sitting apart, with an ivory shoulder
turned towards Royalty, scowling at the audience like a thunder-cloud."
"Well, it is but natural, perhaps, that such a Court should inspire such a
stage," returned Fareham, "and that for the heroic drama of Beaumont and
Fletcher, Webster, Massinger, and Ford, we should have a gross caricature
of our own follies and our own vices. Nay, so essential is foulness to the
modern stage that when the manager ventures a serious play, he takes care
to introduce it with some filthy prologue, and to spice the finish with a
"Zounds, Fareham!" cried Masaroon, "when one has yawned or slept through
five acts of dull heroics, one needs to be stung into wakefulness by a
high-spiced epilogue. For my taste your epilogue can't be too pungent
to give a flavour to my oysters and Rhenish. Gud, my lord, we must have
something to talk about when we leave the play-house!"
"His lordship is spoilt; we are all spoilt for London after having lived in
the most exquisite city in the world," drawled Mrs. Danville, one of Lady
Fareham's particular friends, who had been educated at the Visitandines
with the Princess Henrietta, now Duchess of Orleans. "Who can tolerate the
coarse manners and sea-coal fires of London after the smokeless skies and
exquisite courtesies of Parisian good company in the Rue St. Thomas du
Louvre--a society so refined that a fault in grammar shocks as much as a
slit nose at Charing Cross? I shudder when I recall the Saturdays in the
Rue du Temple, and compare the conversations there, the play of wit and
fancy, the elaborate arguments upon platonic love, the graceful raillery,
with any assembly in London--except yours, Hyacinth. At Fareham House we
breathe a finer air, although his lordship's esprit moqueur will not allow
us any superiority to the coarse English mob."
"Indeed, Mrs. Danville, even your prejudice cannot deny London fine
gentlemen and wits," remonstrated Sir Ralph. "A court that can boast a
Buckhurst, a Rochester, an Etherege, a Sedley----"
"There is not one of them can compare with Voiture or Godeau, with Bussy or
St. Evremond, still less with Scarron or Moliere," said De Malfort. "I have
heard more wit in one evening at Scarron's than in a week at Whitehall. Wit
in France has its basis in thought and erudition. Here it is the sparkle
and froth of empty minds, a trick of speech, a knack of saying brutal
things under a pretence of humour, varnishing real impertinence with mock
wit. I have heard Rowley laugh at insolences which, addressed to Louis,
would have ensured the speaker a year in the Bastille."
"I would not exchange our easy-tempered King for your graceful despot,"
said Fareham. "Pride is the mainspring that moves Louis' self-absorbed
soul. His mother instilled it into his mind almost before he could speak.
He was bred in the belief that he has no more parallel or fellow than the
sun which he has chosen for his emblem. And then, for moral worth, he is
little better than his cousin, Louis has all Charles's elegant vices, plus
"Louis is every inch a King. Your easy-tempered gentleman at Whitehall is
only a tradition," answered De Malfort. "He is but an extravagantly paid
official, whose office is a sinecure, and who sells something of his
prerogative every session for a new grant of money. I dare adventure, by
the end of his reign, Charles will have done more than Cromwell to increase
the liberty of the subject and to demonstrate the insignificance of kings."
"I doubt the easy-tempered sinecurist who trusts the business of the State
to the nation's representatives will wear longer than your officious
tyrant, who wants to hold all the strings in his own fingers."
"He may do that safely, so long as he has men like Colbert for puppets----"
"Men!" cried Fareham. "A man of so rare an honesty must not be thought of
in the plural. Colbert's talent, probity, and honour constitute a phoenix
that appears once in a century; and, given those rare qualities in the man,
it needs a Richelieu to inspire the minister, and a Mazarin to teach him
his craft, and to prepare him for double-dealing in others which his
own direct mind could never have imagined. Trained first by one of the
greatest, and next by one of the subtlest statesmen the world has ever
seen, the provincial woollen-draper's son has all the qualities needed to
raise France to the pinnacle of fortune, if his master will but give him a
"At any rate, he will make Jacques Bonhomme pay handsomely for his
Majesty's new palaces and new loves," said De Malfort. "Colbert adores the
King, and is blind to his follies, which are no more economical than the
vulgar pleasures of your jovial Rowley."
"Who takes four shillings in every country gentleman's pound to spend
on the pleasures of London," interjected Masaroon. "Royalty is plaguey
The company sighed a melancholy assent.
"And one can never tell whether the money they squeeze out of us goes to
build a new ship, or to pay Lady Castlemaine's gambling debts," said Lady
"Oh, no doubt the lady, as Hyde calls her, has her tithes," said De
Malfort. "I have observed she always flames in new jewels after a subsidy."
"Royal accounts should be kept so that every tax-payer could look into
them," said Masaroon. "The King has spent millions. We were all so
foolishly fond of him in the joyful day of his restoration that we allowed
him to wallow in extravagance, and asked no questions; and for a man who
had worn threadbare velvet and tarnished gold, and lived upon loans and
gratuities from foreign princes and particulars, it was a new sensation to
draw _ad libitum_ upon a national exchequer."
"The exchequer Rowley draws upon should be as deep and wide as the river
Pactolus; for he is a spendthrift by instinct," said Fareham.
"Yet his largest expenditure can hardly equal his cousin's drain upon the
revenue. Mansart is spending millions on Versailles, with his bastard
Italian architecture, his bloated garlands and festoons, his stone lilies
and pomegranates. Charles builds no palaces, initiates no war----"
"And will leave neither palace nor monument; will have lived only to have
diminished the dignity and importance of his country. Restored to kingdom
and power as if by a miracle, he makes it his chief business to show
Englishmen how well they could have done without him," said Denzil Warner,
who had been hanging over Angela's tea-table until just now, when they both
sauntered on to the terrace, the lady's office being fulfilled, the little
Chinese teapot emptied of its costly contents, and the tiny tea-cups
distributed among the modish few who relished, or pretended to relish, the
"You are a Republican, Sir Denzil, fostered by an arrant demagogue!"
exclaimed Masaroon, with a contemptuous shake of his shoulder ribbons. "You
hate the King because he is a King."
"No, sir, I despise him because he is so much less than a King. Nobody
could hate Charles the Second. He is not big enough."
"Oh, dem, we want no meddlesome Kings to quarrel with their neighbours, and
set Europe by the ears! The treaty of the Pyrenees may be a fine thing for
France; but how many noble gentlemen's lives it cost, to say nothing of the
common people! Rowley is the finest gentleman in his kingdom, and the most
good-natured. Eh, gud, sirs! what more would you have?"
"A MAN--like Henry the Fifth, or Oliver Cromwell, or Elizabeth."
"Faith, she had need possess the manly virtues, for she must have been
an untowardly female--a sour, lantern-jawed spinster, with all the
inclinations but none of the qualities of a coquette."
"Greatness has the privilege of small failings, or it would scarce
be human. Elizabeth and Julius Caesar might be excused some harmless
* * * * *
The spring evenings were now mild enough for promenading St. James's Park,
and the Mall was crowded night after night by the finest company in London.
Hyacinth walked in the Mall, and appeared occasionally in her coach in
Hyde Park; but she repeatedly reminded her friends how inferior was the
mill-round of the Ring to the procession of open carriages along the Cours
la Reine, by the side of the Seine; the splendour of the women's dress,
outshone sometimes by the extravagant decoration of their coaches and the
richness of their liveries; the crowds of horsemen, the finest gentlemen in
France, riding at the coach doors, and bandying jests and compliments with
Beauty, enthroned in her triumphal chariot. Gay, joyous sunsets; light
laughter; delicate feasting in Renard's garden, hard by the Tuileries. To
remember that fairer and different scene was to recall the freshness of
youth, the romance of a first love.
Here in the Mall there was gaiety enough and to spare. A crowd of fine
people that sometimes thickened to a mob, hustled by the cits and
starveling poets who came to stare at them.
Yet, since St. James's Park was fashion's favourite promenade, Lady Fareham
affected it, and took a turn or two nearly every evening, alighting from
her chair at one gate and returning to it at another, on her way to rout
or dance. She took Angela with her; and De Malfort and Sir Denzil were
generally in attendance upon them, Denzil's devotion stopping at nothing
except a proposal of marriage, for which he had not mustered courage in a
friendship that had lasted half a year.
"Because there was one so favoured as Endymion, am I to hope for the moon
to come down and give herself to me?" he said one day, when Lady Fareham
rebuked him for his reticence. "I know your sister does not love me; yet I
hang on, hoping that love will come suddenly, like the coming of spring,
which is ever a surprise. And even if I am never to win her, it is
happiness to see her and to talk with her. I will not spoil my chance by
rashness; I will not hazard banishment from her dear company."
"She is lucky in such an admirer," sighed Hyacinth. "A silent, respectful
passion is the rarest thing nowadays. Well, you deserve to conquer, Denzil;
and if my sister were not of the coldest nature I ever met in woman she
would have returned your passion ages ago, when you were so much in her
company at Chilton."
"I can afford to wait as long as the Greeks waited before Troy," said
Denzil; "and I will be as constant as they were. If I cannot be her lover I
can be her friend, and her protector."
"Protector! Nay, surely she needs no protector out-of-doors, when she has
Fareham and me within!"
"Beauty has always need of defenders."
"Not such beauty as Angela's. In the first place, her charms are of no
dazzling order; and in the second, she has a coldness of temper and an
old-fashioned wisdom which would safeguard her amidst the rabble rout of
"There I believe you are right, Lady Fareham. Temptation could not touch
her. Sin, even the subtlest, could not so disguise itself that her purity
would not take alarm. Yes; she is like Milton's lady. The tempter could
not touch the freedom of her mind. Sinful love would wither at a look from
those pure eyes."
He turned away suddenly and walked to the window.
"Denzil! Why, what is the matter? You are weeping!"
"Forgive me!" he said, recovering himself. "Indeed, I am not ashamed of a
tributary tear to virtue and beauty like your sister's."
"Dear friend, I shall not be happy till I call you brother."
She gave him both her hands, and he bent down to kiss them.
"I swear you are losing all your Anabaptist stiffness," she said,
laughingly. "You will be ruffling it in Covent Garden with Buckhurst and
his crew before long."
THE SAGE OF SAYES COURT.
One of Angela's letters to her convent companion, the chosen friend and
confidante of childhood and girlhood, Leonie de Ville, now married to the
Baron de Beaulieu, and established in a fine house in the Place Royale,
will best depict her life and thoughts and feelings during her first London
"You tell me, chere, that this London, which I have painted in somewhat
brilliant colours, must be a poor place compared with your exquisite city;
but, indeed, despite all you say of the Cours la Reine, and your splendour
of gilded coaches, fine ladies, and noble gentlemen, who ride at your coach
windows, talking to you as they rein in their spirited horses, I cannot
think that your fashionable promenade can so much surpass our Ring in Hyde
Park, where the Court airs itself daily in the new glass coaches, or outvie
for gaiety our Mall in St. James's Park, where all the world of beauty and
wit is to be met walking up and down in the gayest, easiest way, everybody
familiar and acquainted, with the exception of a few women in masks, who
are never to be spoken to or spoken about. Indeed, my sister and I have
acquired the art of appearing neither to see nor to hear objectionable
company, and pass close beside fine flaunting masks, rub shoulders with
them even--and all as if we saw them not. It is for this that Lord Fareham
hates London. Here, he says, vice takes the highest place, and flaunts in
the sun, while virtue blushes, and steals by with averted head. But though
I wonder at this Court of Whitehall, and the wicked woman who reigns
empress there, and the neglected Queen, and the ladies of honour, whose bad
conduct is on every one's lips, I wonder more at the people and the life
you describe at the Louvre, and St. Germain, and Fontainebleau, and your
new palace of Versailles.
"Indeed, Leonie, the world must be in a strange way when vice can put on
all the grace and dignity of virtue, and hold an honourable place among
good and noble women. My sister says that Madame de Montausier is a woman
of stainless character, and her husband the proudest of men; yet you tell
me that both husband and wife are full of kindness and favours for that
unhappy Mlle. de la Valliere, whose position at Court is an open insult to
your Queen. Have Queens often been so unhappy, I wonder, as her Majesty
here, and your own royal mistress? One at least was not. The martyred King
was of all husbands the most constant and affectionate, and, in the opinion
of many, lost his kingdom chiefly through his fatal indulgence of Queen
Henrietta's caprices, and his willingness to be governed by her opinions in
circumstances of difficulty, where only the wisest heads in the land
should have counselled him. But how I am wandering from my defence of this
beautiful city against your assertion of its inferiority! I hope, chere,
that you will cross the sea some day, and allow my sister to lodge you in
this house where I write; and when you look out upon our delightful river,
with its gay traffic of boats and barges passing to and fro, and its
palaces, rising from gardens and Italian terraces on either side of the
stream; when you see our ancient cathedral of St. Paul; and the Abbey of
St. Peter, lying a little back from the water, grand and ancient, and
somewhat gloomy in its massive bulk; and eastward, the old fortress-prison,
with its four towers; and the ships lying in the Pool; and fertile
Bermondsey with its gardens; and all the beauty of verdant shores and
citizens' houses between the bridge and Greenwich, you will own that London
and its adjacent villages can compare favourably with any metropolis in the
"The only complaint one hears is of its rapid growth, which is fast
encroaching upon the pleasant fields and rustic lanes behind the Lambs
Conduit and Southampton House; and on the western side spreading so rapidly
that there will soon be no country left between London and Knightsbridge.
"How I wish thou couldst see our river-terrace on my sister's visiting-day,
when De Malfort is lolling on the marble balustrade, singing one of your
favourite chansons to the guitar which he touches so exquisitely, and when
Hyacinth's fine lady friends and foppish admirers are sitting about in the
sunshine! Thou wouldst confess that even Renard's garden can show no gayer
"It was only last Tuesday that I had the opportunity of seeing more of the
city than I had seen previously--and at its best advantage, as seen from
the river. Mr. Evelyn, of Sayes Court, had invited my sister and her
husband to visit his house and gardens. He is a great gardener and
arboriculturist, as you may have heard, for he has travelled much on the
Continent, and acquired a world-wide reputation for his knowledge of trees
"We were all invited--the Farehams, and my niece Henriette; and even I,
whom Mr. Evelyn had seen but once, was included in the invitation. We were
to travel by water, in his lordship's barge, and Mr. Evelyn's coach was to
meet us at a landing-place not far from his house. We were to start in the
morning, dine with him, and return to Fareham House before dark. Henriette
was enchanted, and I found her at prayers on Monday night praying St.
Swithin, whom she believes to have care of the weather, to allow no rain on
"She looked so pretty next morning, dressed for the journey, in a light
blue cloth cloak embroidered with silver, and a hood of the same; but she
brought me bad news--my sister had a feverish headache, and begged us to go
without her. I went to Hyacinth's room to try to persuade her to go with
us, in the hope that the fresh air along the river would cure her headache;
but she had been at a dance overnight, and was tired, and would do nothing
but rest in a dark room all day--at least, that was her resolve in the
morning; but later she remembered that it was Lady Lucretia Topham's
visiting-day, and, feeling better, ordered her chair and went off to
Bloomsbury Square, where she met all the wits, full of a new play which had
been acted at Whitehall, the public theatres being still closed on account
of the late contagion.
"They do not act their plays here as often as Moliere is acted at the
Hotel de Bourgogne. The town is constant in nothing but wanting perpetual
variety, and the stir and bustle of a new play, which gives something for
the wits to dispute about. I think we must have three play-wrights to one
of yours; but I doubt if there is wit enough in a dozen of our writers to
equal your Moliere, whose last comedy seems to surpass all that has gone
before. His lordship had a copy from Paris last week, and read the play to
us in the evening. He has no accent, and reads French beautifully, with
spirit and fire, and in the passionate scenes his great deep voice has a
"We left Fareham House at nine o'clock on a lovely morning, worthy this
month of May. The lessening of fires in the city since the warmer weather
has freed our skies from sea-coal smoke, and the sky last Tuesday was bluer
than the river.
"The cream-coloured and gold barge, with twelve rowers in the Fareham
green velvet liveries, would have pleased your eyes, which have ever loved
splendour; but you might have thought the master of this splendid barge too
sombre in dress and aspect to become a scene which recalled Cleopatra's
galley. To me there is much that is interesting in that severe and serious
face, with its olive complexion and dark eyes, shadowed by the strong,
thoughtful brow. People who knew Lord Stafford say that my brother-in-law
has a look of that great, unfortunate man--sacrificed to stem the rising
flood of rebellion, and sacrificed in vain. Fareham is his kinsman on
the mother's side, and may have perhaps something of his powerful mind,
together with the rugged grandeur of his features and the bent carriage of
his shoulders, which some one the other day called the Stratford stoop.
"I have been reading some of Lord Stafford's letters, and the account
of his trial. Indeed he was an ill-used man, and the victim of private
hatred--from the Vanes and others--as much as of public faction. His trial
and condemnation were scarce less unfair--though the form and tribunal may
have been legal--than his master's, and indeed did but forecast that most
unwarrantable judgment. Is it not strange, Leonie, to consider how much of
tragical history you and I have lived through that are yet so young? But
to me it is strangest of all to see the people in this city, who abandon
themselves as freely to a life of idle pleasures and sinful folly--at
least, the majority of them--as if England had never seen the tragedy of
the late monarch's murder, or been visited by death in his most horrible
aspect, only the year last past. My sister tells every one, smiling, that
she misses no one from the circle of her friends. She never saw the red
cross on almost every door, the coffins, and the uncoffined dead, as I saw
them one stifling summer day, nor heard the shrieks of the mourners in
houses where death was master. Nor does she suspect how near she was to
missing her husband, who was hanging between life and death when I found
him, forsaken and alone. He never talks to me of those days of sickness and
slow recovery; yet I think the memory of them must be in his mind as it is
in mine, and that this serves as a link to draw us nearer than many a real
brother and sister. I am sending you a little picture which I made of him
from memory, for he has one of those striking faces that paint themselves
easily upon the mind. Tell me how you, who are clever at reading faces,
interpret this one.
"Helas, how I wander from our excursion! My pen winds like the river which
carried us to Deptford. Pardon, cherie, sije m'oublie trop; mais c'est si
doux de causer avec une amie d'enfance.
"At the Tower stairs we stopped to take on board a gentleman in a very fine
peach-blossom suit, and with a huge periwig, at which Papillon began to
laugh, and had to be chid somewhat harshly. He was a very civil-spoken,
friendly person, and he brought with him a lad carrying a viol. He is an
officer of the Admiralty, called Pepys, and, Fareham tells me, a useful,
indefatigable person. My sister met him at Clarendon House two years ago,
and wrote to me about him somewhat scornfully; but my brother respects him
as shrewd and capable, and more honest than such persons usually are. We
were to fetch him to Sayes Court, where he also was invited by Mr. Evelyn;
and in talking to Henriette and me, he expressed great regret that his wife
had not been included, and he paid my niece compliments upon her grace and
beauty which I could but think very fulsome and showing want of judgment in
addressing a child. And then, seeing me vexed, he hoped I was not jealous;
at which I could hardly command my anger, and rose in a huff and left him.
But he was a person not easy to keep at a distance, and was following me to
the prow of the boat, when Fareham took hold of him by his cannon sleeve
and led him to a seat, where he kept him talking of the navy and the great
ships now a-building to replace those that have been lost in the Dutch War.
"When we had passed the Pool, and the busy trading ships, and all the noise
of sailors and labourers shipping or unloading cargo, and the traffic of
small boats hastening to and fro, and were out on a broad reach of the
river with the green country on either side, the lad tuned his viol, and
played a pretty, pensive air, and he and Mr. Pepys sang some verses by
Herrick, one of our favourite English poets, set for two voices--
"'Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time still is a-flying;
And this same flower that smiles to-day,
To-morrow will be dying."
The boy had a voice like Mere Ursule's lovely soprano, and Mr. Pepys a
pretty tenor; and you can imagine nothing more silvery sweet than the union
of the two voices to the staccato notes of the viol, dropping in here and
there like music whispered. The setting was Mr. Pepys' own, and he seemed
overcome with pride when we praised it. When the song was over, Fareham
came to the bench where Papillon and I were sitting, and asked me what I
thought of this fine Admiralty gentleman, whereupon I confessed I liked the
song better than the singer, who at that moment was strutting on the deck
like a peacock, looking at every vessel we passed as if he were Neptune,
and could sink navies with a nod.
"Misericorde! how my letter grows! But I love to prattle to you. My sister
is all goodness to me; but she has her ideas and I have mine; and though I
love her none the less because our fancies pull us in opposite directions,
I cannot talk to her as I can write to you; and if I plague you with too
much of my own history you must not fear to tell me so. Yet if I dare judge
by my own feelings, who am never weary of your letters--nay, can never
hear enough of your thoughts and doings--I think you will bear with my
expatiations, and not deem them too impertinent.
"Mr. Evelyn's coach was waiting at the landing-stage; and that good
gentleman received us at his hall door. He is not young, and has gone
through much affliction in the loss of his dear children--one, who died
of a fever during that wicked reign of the Usurper Cromwell, was a boy
of gifts and capacities that seemed almost miraculous, and had more
scholarship at five years old than my poor woman's mind could compass were
I to live till fifty. Mr. Evelyn took a kind of sad delight in talking to
Henriette and me of this gifted child, asking her what she knew of this
and that subject, and comparing her extensive ignorance at eleven with his
lamented son's vast knowledge at five. I was more sorry for him than I
dared to say; for I could but think this dear overtaught child might have
died from a perpetual fever of the brain as likely as from a four days'
fever of the body; and afterwards when Mr. Evelyn talked to us of a manner
of forcing fruits to grow in strange shapes--a process in which he was
greatly interested--I thought that this dear infant's mind had been
constrained and directed, like the fruits, into a form unnatural to
childhood. Picture to yourself, Leonie, at an age when he should have been
chasing butterflies or making himself a garden of cut-flowers stuck in the
ground, this child was labouring over Greek and Latin, and all his dreams
must have been filled with the toilsome perplexities of his daily tasks. It
is happy for the bereaved father that he takes a different view, and that
his pride in the child's learning is even greater than his grief at having
"At dinner the conversation was chiefly of public affairs--the navy, the
war, the King, the Duke, and the General. Mr. Evelyn told Fareham much of
his embarrassments last year, when he had the Dutch prisoners, and the sick
and wounded from the fleet, in his charge; and when there was so terrible
a scarcity of provision for these poor wretches that he was constrained to
draw largely on his own private means in order to keep them from starving.
"Later, during the long dinner, Mr. Pepys made allusions to an unhappy
passion of his master and patron, Lord Sandwich, that had diverted his mind
from public business, and was likely to bring him to disgrace. Nothing was
said plainly about this matter, but rather in hints and innuendoes, and my
brother's brow darkened as the conversation went on; and then, at last,
after sitting silent for some time while Mr. Evelyn and Mr. Pepys
conversed, he broke up their discourse in a rough, abrupt way he has when
"'He is a wretch--a guilty wretch--to love where he should not, to hazard
the world's esteem, to grieve his wife, and to dishonour his name! And yet,
I wonder, is he happier in his sinful indulgence than if he had played a
Roman part, or, like the Spartan lad we read of, had let the wild-beast
passion gnaw his heart out, and yet made no sign? To suffer and die, that
is virtue, I take it, Mr. Evelyn; and you Christian sages assure us that
virtue is happiness. A strange kind of happiness!'
"'The Christian's law is a law of sacrifice,' Mr. Evelyn said, in his
melancholic way. 'The harvest of surrender here is to be garnered in a
"'But if Sandwich does not believe in the everlasting joys of the heavenly
Jerusalem--and prefers to anticipate his harvest of joy!' said Fareham.
"'Then he is the more to be pitied,' interrupted Mr. Evelyn.
"'He is as God made him. Nothing can come out of a man but what his
Maker put in him. Your gold vase there will not turn vicious and produce
copper--nor can all your alchemy turn copper to gold. There are some of us
who believe that a man can live only once, and love only once, and be happy
only once in that pitiful span of infirmities which we call life; and that
he is wisest who gathers his roses while he may--as Mr. Pepys sang to us
"Mr. Evelyn sighed, and looked at my brother with mild reproof.
"'If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most
miserable,' he said. 'My lord, when those you love people the Heavenly
City, you will begin to believe and hope as I do.'
"I have transcribed this conversation at full length, Leonie, because it
gives you the keynote to Fareham's character, and accounts for much that is
strange in his conduct. Alas, that I must say it of so noble a man! He is
an infidel! Bred in our Church, he has faith neither in the Church nor
in its Divine Founder. His favourite books are metaphysical works by
Descartes, Hobbes, Spinoza. I have discovered him reading those pernicious
writings whose chief tendency is to make us question the most blessed
truths our Church has taught us, or to confuse the mind by leading us to
doubt even of our own existence. I was curious to know what there could
be in books that so interested a man of his intelligence, and asked to be
allowed to read them; but the perusal only served to make me unhappy. This
daring attempt to reduce all the mysteries of life to a simple sum in
arithmetic, and to make God a mere attribute in the mind of man, disturbed
and depressed me. Indeed, there can be no more unhappy moment in any life
than that in which for the first time a terrible 'if' flashes upon the
mind. _If_ God is not the God I have worshipped, and in whose goodness I
rest all my hopes of future bliss; _if_ in the place of an all-powerful
Creator, who gave me my life and governs it, and will renew it after the
grave, there is nothing but a quality of my mind, which makes it necessary
to me to invent a Superior Being, and to worship the product of my own
imagination! Oh, Leonie, beware of these modern thinkers, who assail the
creed that has been the stronghold and comfort of humanity for sixteen
hundred years, and who employ the reason which God has given them to
disprove the existence of their Maker. Fareham insists that Spinoza is a
religious man--and has beautiful ideas about God; but I found only doubt
and despair in his pages; and I ascribe my poor brother's melancholic
disposition in some part to his study of such philosophers.
"I wonder what you would think of Fareham, did you see him daily and
hourly, almost, as I do. Would you like or dislike, admire or scorn him?
I cannot tell. His manners have none of the velvet softness which is the
fashion in London--where all the fine gentlemen shape themselves upon the
Parisian model; yet he is courteous, after his graver mode, to all
women, and kind and thoughtful of our happiness. To my sister he is all
beneficence; and if he has a fault it is over-much indulgence of her whims
and extravagances--though Hyacinth, poor soul, thinks him a tyrant because
he forbids her some places of amusement to which other women of quality
resort freely. Were he my husband, I should honour him for his desire to
spare me all evil sounds and profligate company; and so would Hyacinth,
perhaps, had she leisure for reflection. But in her London life, surrounded
ever with a bevy of friends, moving like a star amidst a galaxy of great
ladies, there is little time for the free exercise of a sound judgment,
and she can but think as others bid her, who swear that her husband is a
"Mrs. Evelyn was absent from home on a visit; so after dinner Henriette and
I, having no hostess to entertain us, walked with our host, who showed
us all the curiosities and beauties of his garden, and condescended to
instruct us upon many interesting particulars relating to trees and
flowers, and the methods of cultivation pursued in various countries. His
fig trees are as fine as those in the convent garden at Louvain; and,
indeed, walking with him in a long alley, shut in by holly hedges of which
he is especially proud, and with orchard trees on either side, I was taken
back in fancy to the old pathway along which you and I have paced so often
with Mother Agnes, talking of the time when we should go out into the
world. You have been more than three years in that world of which you then
knew so little, but it lacks still a quarter of one year since I left that
quiet and so monotonous life; and already I look back and wonder if I ever
really lived there. I cannot picture myself within those walls. I cannot
call back my own feelings or my own image at the time when I had never seen
London, when my sister was almost a stranger to me, and my sister's husband
only a name. Yet a day of sorrow might come when I should be fain to find
a tranquil retreat in that sober place, and to spend my declining years in
prayer and meditation, as my dear aunt did spend nearly all her life. May
God maintain us in the true faith, sweet friend, so that we may ever have
that sanctuary of holy seclusion and prayer to fly to--and, oh, how
deep should be our pity for a soul like Fareham's, which knows not the
consolations nor the strength of religion, for whom there is no armour
against the arrows of death, no City of Refuge in the day of mourning!
"Indeed he is not happy. I question and perplex myself to find a reason for
his melancholy. He is rich in money and in powerful friends; has a wife
whom all the world admires; houses which might lodge Royalty. Perhaps it is
because his life has been over prosperous that he sickens of it, like one
who flings away from a banquet table, satiated by feasting. Life to him may
be like the weariness of our English dinners, where one mountain of food is
carried away to make room on the board for another; and where after people
have sat eating and drinking for over an hour comes a roasted swan, or a
peacock, or some other fantastical dish, which the company praise as a
pretty surprise. Often, in the midst of such a dinner, I recall our sparing
meals in the convent; our soup maigre and snow eggs, our cool salads and
black bread--and regret that simple food, while the reeking joints and
hecatombs of fowl nauseate my senses.
"It was late in the afternoon when we returned to the barge, for Mr. Pepys
had business to transact with our host, and spent an hour with him in his
study, signing papers, and looking at accounts, while Papillon and I roamed
about the garden with his lordship, conversing upon various subjects, and
about Mr. Evelyn, and his opinions and politics.
"'The good man has a pretty trivial taste that will keep him amused and
happy till he drops into the grave--but, lord! what insipid trash it all
seems to the heart on fire with passion!' Fareham said in his impetuous
way, as if he despised Mr. Evelyn for taking pleasure in bagatelles.
"The sun was setting as we passed Greenwich, and I thought of those who had
lived and made history in the old palace--Queen Elizabeth, so great, so
lonely; Shakespeare, whom his lordship honours; Bacon, said to be one of
the wisest men who have lived since the Seven of Greece; Raleigh, so brave,
so adventurous, so unhappy! Surely men and women must have been made of
another stuff a century ago; for what will those who come after us remember
of the wits and beauties of Whitehall, except that they lived and died?
"Mr. Pepys was somewhat noisy on the evening voyage, and I was very glad
when he left the barge. He paid me ridiculous compliments mixed with scraps
of French and Spanish, and, finding his conversation distasteful, he
insisted upon attempting several songs--not one of which he was able to
finish, and at last began one which for some reason made his lordship
angry, who gave him a cuff on his head that scattered all the scented
powder in his wig; on which, instead of starting up furious to return the
blow, as I feared to see him, Mr. Pepys gave a little whimpering laugh,
muttered something to the effect that his lordship was vastly nice, and
sank down in a corner of the cushioned seat, where he almost instantly fell
"Henriette and I were spectators of this scene at some distance, I am glad
to say, for all the length of the barge divided us from the noisy singer.
"The sun went down, and the stars stole out of the deep blue vault, and
trembled between us and those vast fields of heaven. Papillon watched their
reflection in the river, or looked at the houses along the shore, few and
far apart, where a solitary candle showed here and there. Fareham came and
seated himself near us, but talked little. We drew our cloaks closer, for
the air was cold, and Papillon nestled beside me and dropped asleep. Even
the dipping of the oars had a ghostly sound in the night stillness; and we
seemed so melancholy in this silence, and so far away from one another,
that I could but think of Charon's boat laden with the souls of the dead.
"Write to me soon, dearest, and as long a letter as I have written to you.
"A toi de coeur,
THE MILLBANK GHOST.
One of the greatest charms of London has ever been the facility of getting
away from it to some adjacent rustic or pseudo-rustic spot; and in 1666,
though many people declared that the city had outgrown all reason, and was
eating up the country, a two-mile journey would carry the Londoner from
bricks and mortar to rusticity, and while the tower of St Paul's Cathedral
was still within sight he might lie on the grass on a wild hillside,
and hear the skylark warbling in the blue arch above him, and scent
the hawthorn blowing in untrimmed hedge-rows. And then there were the
fashionable resorts--the gardens or the fields which the town had marked as
its own. Beauty and wit had their choice of such meeting-grounds between
Westminster and Barn Elms, where in the remote solitudes along the river
murder might be done in strict accordance with etiquette, and was too
seldom punished by law.
Among the rendezvous of fashion there was one retired spot less widely
known than Fox Hall or the Mulberry Garden, but which possessed a certain
repute, and was affected rather by the exclusives than by the crowd. It was
a dilapidated building of immemorial age, known as the "haunted Abbey,"
being, in fact, the refectory of a Cistercian monastery, of which all other
remains had disappeared long ago. The Abbey had flourished in the lifetime
of Sir Thomas More, and was mentioned in some of his familiar epistles.
The ruined building had been used as a granary in the time of Charles the
First; and it was only within the last decade that it had been redeemed
from that degraded use, and had been in some measure restored and made
habitable for the occupation of an old couple, who owned the surrounding
fields, and who had a small dairy farm from which they sent fresh milk into
London every morning.
The ghostly repute of the place and the attraction of new milk, cheese
cakes, and syllabubs, had drawn a certain number of those satiated
pleasure-seekers who were ever on the alert for a new sensation, among whom
there was none more active or more noisy than Lady Sarah Tewkesbury. She
had made the haunted Abbey in a manner her own, had invited her friends
to midnight parties to watch for the ghost, and to morning parties to eat
syllabubs and dance on the grass. She had brought a shower of gold into the
lap of the miserly freeholder, and had husband and wife completely under
Doler, the husband, had fought in the civil war, and Mrs. Doler had been
a cook in the Fairfax household; but both had scrupulously sunk all
Cromwellian associations since his Majesty's return, and in boasting, as he
often did boast, of having fought desperately and been left for dead at the
battle of Brentford, Mr. Doler had been careful to suppress the fact that
he was a hireling soldier of the Parliament. He would weep for the martyred
King, and tell the story of his own wounds, until it is possible he had
forgotten which side he had fought for, in remembering his personal prowess
So far there had been disappointment as to the ghost. Sounds had been heard
of a most satisfying grimness, during those midnight and early morning
watchings; rappings, and scrapings, and scratching on the wall, groanings
and meanings, sighings and whisperings behind the wainscote; but nothing
spectral had been seen; and Mrs. Doler had been severely reprimanded by her
patrons and patronesses for the unwarrantable conduct of a spectre which
she professed to have seen as often as she had fingers and toes.
It was the phantom of a nun--a woman of exceeding beauty, but white as the
linen which banded her cheek and brow. There was a dark story of violated
oaths, priestly sin, and the sleepless conscience of the dead, who could
not rest even in that dreadful grave where the sinner had been immured
alive, but must needs haunt the footsteps of the living, a wandering shade.
Some there were who disbelieved in the traditions of that living grave,
and who even went so far as to doubt the ghost; but the spectre had an
established repute of more than a century, was firmly believed in by all
the children and old women of the neighbourhood, and had been written about
by students of the unseen.
One of Lady Sarah's parties took place at full moon, not long after the
visit to Deptford, and Lord Fareham's barge was again employed, this time
on a nocturnal expedition up the river to the fields near the haunted
Abbey, to carry Hyacinth, her sister, De Malfort, Lord Rochester, Sir Ralph
Masaroon, Sir Denzil Warner, and a bevy of wits and beauties--beauties who
had, some of them, been carrying on the beauty-business and trading in eyes
and complexion for more than one decade, and who loved that night season
when paint might be laid on thicker than in the glare of day.
The barge wore a much more festive aspect under her ladyship's management
than when used by his lordship for a daylight voyage like the trip to
Deptford. Satin coverlets and tapestry curtains had been brought from
Lady Fareham's own apartments, to be flung with studied carelessness over
benches and tabourets. Her ladyship's singing-boys and musicians were
grouped picturesquely under a silken canopy in the bows, and a row of
lanterns hung on chains festooned from stem to stern, pretty gew-gaws, that
had no illuminating power under that all-potent moon, but which glittered
with coloured light like jewels, and twinkled and trembled in the summer
A table in the stern was spread with a light collation, which gave an
excuse for the display of parcel-gilt cups, silver tankards, and Venetian
wine-flasks. A miniature fountain played perfumed waters in the midst of
this splendour; and it amused the ladies to pull off their long gloves, dip
them in the scented water, and flap them in the faces of their beaux.
The distance was only too short, since Lady Fareham's friends declared the
voyage was by far the pleasanter part of the entertainment. Denzil, among
others, was of this opinion, for it was his good fortune to have secured
the seat next Angela, and to be able to interest her by his account of the
buildings they passed, whose historical associations were much better known
to him than to most young men of his epoch. He had sat at the feet of a man
who scoffed at Pope and King, and hated Episcopacy, but who revered all
that was noble and excellent in England's past.
"Flams, mere flams!" cried Hyacinth, acknowledging the praises bestowed on
her barge; "but if you like clary wine better than skimmed milk you had
best drink a brimmer or two before you leave the barge, since 'tis odds
you'll get nothing but syllabubs and gingerbread from Lady Sarah."
"A substantial supper might frighten away the ghost, who doubtless parted
with sensual propensities when she died," said De Malfort. "How do we watch
for her? In a severe silence, as if we were at church?"
"Aw would keep silence for a week o' Sawbaths gin Aw was sure o' seeing a
bogle," said Lady Euphemia Dubbin, a Scotch marquess's daughter, who had
married a wealthy cit, and made it the chief endeavour of her life to
ignore her husband and keep him at a distance.
She hated the man only a little less than his plebeian name, which she had
not succeeded in persuading him to change, because, forsooth, there had
been Dubbins in Mark Lane for many generations. All previous Dubbins had
lived over their warehouses and offices; but her ladyship had brought
Thomas Dubbin from Mark Lane to my Lord Bedford's Piazza in the Convent
Garden, where he endured the tedium of existence in a fine new house in
which he was afraid of his fine new servants, and never had anything to eat
that he liked, his gastronomic taste being for dishes the very names of
which were intolerable to persons of quality.
This evening Mr. Dubbin had been incorrigible, and had insisted on
intruding his clumsy person upon Lady Fareham's party, arguing with a dull
persistence that his name was on her ladyship's billet of invitation.
"Your name is on a great many invitations only because it is my misfortune
to be called by it," his wife told him. "To sit on a barge after ten
o'clock at night in June--the coarsest month in summer--is to court
lumbago; and all I hope is ye'll not be punished by a worse attack than
Mr. Dubbin had refused to be discouraged, even by this churlishness from
his lady, and appeared in attendance upon her, wearing a magnificent
birthday suit of crimson velvet and green brocade, which he meant to
present to his favourite actor at the Duke's Theatre, after he had
exhibited himself in it half a dozen times at Whitehall, for the benefit
of the great world, and at the Mulberry Garden for the admiration of the
_bona-robas_. He was a fat, double-chinned little man, the essence of good
nature, and perfectly unconscious of being an offence to fine people.
Although not a wit himself, Mr. Dubbin was occasionally the cause of wit in
others, if the practice of bubbling an innocent rustic or citizen can be
called wit. Rochester and Sir Ralph Masaroon, and one Jerry Spavinger,
a gentleman jockey, who was a nobody in town, but a shining light at
Newmarket, took it upon themselves to draw the harmless citizen, and, as a
preliminary to making him ridiculous, essayed to make him drunk.
They were clustered together in a little group somewhat apart from the
rest of the company, and were attended upon by a lackey who brought a full
tankard at the first whistle on the empty one, and whom Mr. Dubbin, after
a rapid succession of brimmers, insisted on calling "drawer." It was very
seldom that Rochester condescended to take part in any entertainment on
which the royal sun shone not, unless it were some post-midnight marauding
with Buckhurst, Sedley, and a band of wild coursers from the purlieus of
Drury Lane. He could see no pleasure in any medium between Whitehall and
"If I am not fooling on the steps of the throne, let me sprawl in
the gutter with pamphleteers and orange-girls," said this precocious
profligate. "I abhor a reputable party among your petty nobility, and if
I had not been in love with Lady Fareham off and on, ever since I cut my
second teeth, I would have no hand in such a humdrum business as this."
"There's not a neater filly in the London stable than her ladyship," said
Jerry, "and I don't blame your taste. I was side-glassing her yesterday in
Hi' Park, but she didn't seem to relish the manoeuvre, though I was wearing
a Chedreux peruke that ought to strike 'em dead."
"You don't give your peruke a chance, Jerry, while you frame that ugly phiz
"Why not buffle the whole company, my lord?" said Masaroon, while Mr.
Dubbin talked apart with Lady Euphemia, who had come from the other end of
the barge to warn her husband against excess in Rhenish or Burgundy. "You
are good at disguises. Why not act the ghost and frighten everybody out of
"Il n'y a pas de quoi, Ralph. The creatures have no sense to be robbed
of. They are second-rate fashion, which is only worked by machinery. They
imitate us as monkeys do, without knowing what they aim at. Their women
have virtuous instincts, but turn wanton rather than not be like the maids
of honour; and because we have our duels their men murder each other for
a shrugged shoulder or a casual word. No, I'll not chalk my face or smear
myself with phosphorus to amuse such trumpery. It was worth my pains to
disguise myself as a German Nostradamus, in order to fool the lovely
Jennings and her friend Price--who won't easily forget their adventures
as orange-girls in the heart of the city. But I have done with all such
"You are growing old, Wilmot. The years are telling upon your spirits."
"I was nineteen last birthday, and 'tis fit I should feel the burden of
time, and think of virtue and a rich wife."
"Like Mrs. Mallet, for example."
"Faith, a man might do worse than win so much beauty and wealth. But the
creature is arrogant, and calls me 'child;' and half the peerage is after
her. But we'll have our jest with the city scrub, Ralph; not because I bear
him malice, but because I hate his wife. And we'll have our masquerading
some time after midnight; if you can borrow a little finery."
Mr. Dubbin was released from his lady's _sotto voce_ lecture at this
instant, and Lord Rochester continued his communication in a whisper, the
Honourable Jeremiah assenting with nods and chucklings, while Masaroon
whistled for a fresh tankard, and plied the honest merchant with a glass
which he never allowed to be empty.
The taste for masquerading was a fashion of the time, as much as combing a
periwig, or flirting a fan. While Rochester was planning a trick upon the
citizen, Lady Fareham was whispering to De Malfort under cover of the
fiddles, which were playing an Italian pazzemano, an air beloved
by Henrietta of Orleans, who danced to that music with her royal
brother-in-law, in one of the sumptuous ballets at St. Cloud.
"Why should they be disappointed of their ghost," said Hyacinth, "when it
would be so easy for me to dress up as the nun and scare them all? This
white satin gown of mine, with a few yards of white lawn arranged on my
head and shoulders----"
"Ah, but you have not the lawn at hand to-night, or your woman to arrange
your head," interjected De Malfort quickly. "It would be a capital joke;
but it must be for another occasion and choicer company. The rabble
you have to-night is not worth it. Besides, there is Rochester, who is
past-master in disguises, and would smoke you at a glance. Let me arrange
it some night before the end of the summer--when there is a waning moon. It
were a pity the thing were done ill."
"Will you really plan a party for me, and let me appear to them on the
stroke of one, with my face whitened? I have as slender a shape as most
"There is no such sylph in London."
"And I can make myself look ethereal. Will you draw the nun's habit for me?
and I will give your picture to Lewin to copy."
"I will do more. I will get you a real habit."
"But there are no nuns so white as the ghost."
"True, but you may rely upon me. The nun's robes shall be there, the
phosphorous, the blue fire, and a selection of the choicest company to
tremble at you. Leave the whole business to my care. It will amuse me to
plan so exquisite a jest for so lovely a jester."
He bent down to kiss her hand, till his forehead almost touched her knee,
and in the few moments that passed before he raised it, she heard him
laughing softly to himself, as if with irrepressible delight.
"What a child you are," she said, "to be pleased with such folly!"
"What children we both are, Hyacinth! My sweet soul, let us always be
childish, and find pleasure in follies. Life is such a poor thing, that if
we had leisure to appraise its value we should have a contagion of suicide
that would number more deaths than the plague. Indeed, the wonder is, not
that any man should commit _felo de se_, but that so many of us should take
the trouble to live."
Lady Sarah received them at the landing-stage, with an escort of fops and
fine ladies; and the festival promised to be a success. There was a better
supper, and more wine than people expected from her ladyship; and after
supper a good many of those who pretended to have come to see the ghost,
wandered off in couples to saunter along the willow-shaded bank, while only
the more earnest spirits were content to wait and watch and listen in the
great vaulted hall, with no light but the moon which sent a flood of silver
through the high Gothic window, from which every vestige of glass had long
There were stone benches along the two side walls, and Lady Sarah's
_prevoyance_ had secured cushions or carpets for her guests to sit upon;
and here the superstitious sat in patient weariness, Angela among them,
with Denzil still at her side, scornful of credulous folly, but loving to
be with her he adored. Lady Fareham had been tempted out-of-doors by De
Malfort to look at the moonlight on the river, and had not returned.
Rochester and his crew had also vanished directly after supper; and for
company Angela had on her left hand Mr. Dubbin, far advanced in liquor, and
trembling at every breath of summer wind that fluttered the ivy round the
ruined window, and at every shadow that moved upon the moonlit wall. His
wife was on the other side of the hall, whispering with Lady Sarah, and
both so deep in a court scandal--in which the "K" and the "D" recurred
very often--that they had almost forgotten the purpose of that moonlight
Suddenly in the distance there sounded a long shrill wailing, as of a soul
in agony, whereupon Mr. Dubbin, after clinging wildly to Angela, and being
somewhat roughly flung aside by Denzil, collapsed altogether, and rolled
upon the ground.
"Lady Euphemia," cried Mrs. Townshend, a young lady who had been sitting
next the obnoxious citizen, "be pleased to look after your drunken husband.
If you take the low-bred sot into company, you should at least charge
yourself with the care of his manners."
The damsel had started to her feet, and indignantly snatched her satin
petticoat from contact with the citizen's porpoise figure.
"I hate mixed company," she told Angela, "and old maids who marry
tallow-chandlers. If a woman of rank marries a shopkeeper she ought never
to be allowed west of Temple Bar."
This young lady was no believer in ghosts; but others of the company were
too scared for speech. All had risen, and were staring in the direction
whence that dismal shriek had come. A trick, perhaps, since anybody with
strong lungs--dairymaid or cowboy--could shriek. They all wanted to _see_
something, a real manifestation of the supernatural.
The unearthly sound was repeated, and the next moment a spectral shape, in
flowing white garments, rushed through the great window, and crossed the
hall, followed by three other shapes in dark loose robes, with hooded
heads. One carried a rope, another a pickaxe, the third a trowel and hod of
mortar. They crossed the hall with flying footsteps--shadowlike--the pale
shape in distracted flight, the dark shapes pursuing, and came to a stop
close against the wall, which had been vacated by the scared assembly,
scattering as if the king of terrors had appeared among them--yet with
fascinated eyes fixed on those fearsome figures.
"It is the nun herself!" cried Lady Sarah, apprehension and triumph
contending in her agitated spirits; for it was surely a feather in her
ladyship's cap to have produced such a phantasmal train at her party. "The
nun and her executioners!"
The company fell back from the ghostly troop, recoiling till they were all
clustered against the opposite wall, leaving a clear space in front of the
spectres, whence they looked on, shuddering, at the tragedy of the erring
Sister's fate, repeated in dumb show. The white-robed figure knelt and
grovelled at the feet of those hooded executioners. One seized and bound
her, with strange automatic action, unlike the movements of living
creatures, and another smote the wall with a pickaxe that made no sound,
while the third waited with his trowel and mortar. It was a gruesome sight
to those who knew the story--a gruesome, yet an enjoyable spectacle; since,
as Lady Sarah's friends had not had the pleasure of knowing the sinning
Sister in the flesh, they watched this ghostly representation of her
suffering with as keen an interest as they would have felt had they been
privileged to see Claud Duval swing at Tyburn.
The person most terrified by this ghostly show was the only one who had the
hardihood to tackle the performers. This was Mr. Dubbin, who sat on the
ground watching the shadowy figures, sobered by fear, and his shrewd city
senses gradually returning to a brain bemused by Burgundy.
"Look at her boots!" he cried suddenly, scrambling to his feet, and
pointing to the nun, who, in sprawling and writhing at the feet of her
executioner, had revealed more leg and foot than were consistent with her
spectral whiteness. "She wears yaller boots, as substantial as any shoe
leather among the company. I'll swear to them yaller boots."
A chorus of laughter followed this attack--laughter which found a smothered
echo among the ghosts. The spell was broken; disillusion followed the
exquisite thrill of fear; and all Lady Sarah's male visitors made a rush
upon the guilty nun. The loose white robe was stripped off, and little
Jerry Spavinger, gentleman jock, famous on the Heath, and at Doncaster,
stood revealed, in his shirt and breeches, and those light riding-boots
which he rarely exchanged for a more courtly chaussure.
The monks, hustled out of their disguise, were Rochester, Masaroon, and
Lady Sarah's young brother, George Saddington.
"From my Lord Rochester I expect nothing but pot-house buffoonery; but
I take it vastly ill on your part, George, to join in making me a
laughing-stock," remonstrated Lady Sarah.
"Indeed, sister, you have to thank his light-headed lordship for giving a
spirited end to your assembly. Could you conceive how preposterous you
and your friends looked sitting against the walls, mute as stockfish, and
suggesting nothing but a Quaker's meeting, you would make us your lowest
curtsy, and thank us kindly for having helped you out of a dilemma."
Lady Sarah, who was too much of a woman of the world to quarrel seriously
with a Court favourite, furled the fan with which she had been cooling her
indignation, and tapped young Wilmot playfully on that oval cheek where the
beard had scarce begun to grow.
"Thou art the most incorrigible wretch of thy years in London," she said,
"and it is impossible to help being angry with thee or to help forgiving
The saunterers on the willow-shadowed banks came strolling in. Lady
Fareham's cornets and fiddles sounded a March in Alceste; and the party
broke up in laughter and good temper, Mr. Dubbin being much complimented
upon his having detected Spavinger's boots.
"I ought to know 'em," he answered ruefully. "I lost a hundred meggs on him
Toosday se'nnight, at Windsor races; and I had time to take the pattern of
them boots while he was crawling in, a bad third."
FALCON AND DOVE.
"Has your ladyship any commands for Paris?" Lord Fareham asked, one August
afternoon, when the ghost party at Millbank was almost forgotten amid a
succession of entertainments on land and river; a fortnight at Epsom to
drink the waters; and a fortnight at Tunbridge--where the Queen and Court
were spending the close of summer--to neutralise the bad effects of Epsom
chalybeates with a regimen of Kentish sulphur. If nobody at either resort
drank deeper of the medicinal springs than Hyacinth--who had ordered her
physician to order her that treatment--the risk of harm or the possibility
of benefit was of the smallest. But at Epsom there had been a good deal of
gay company, and a greater liberty of manners than in London; for, indeed,
as Rochester assured Lady Fareham, "the freedom of Epsom allowed almost
nothing to be scandalous." And at Tunbridge there were dances by torchlight
on the common. "And at the worst," Lady Fareham told her friends, "a
fortnight or so at the Wells helps to shorten the summer."
It was the middle of August when they went back to Fareham House, hot, dry
weather, and London seemed to be living on the Thames, so thick was the
throng of boats going up and down the river, so that with an afternoon tide
running up it seemed as if barges, luggers, and wherries were moving in one
solid block into the sunset sky.
De Malfort had been attached to her ladyship's party at Epsom, and at
Tunbridge Wells. He had his own lodgings, but seldom occupied them,
except in that period between four or five in the morning and two in the
afternoon, which Rochester and he called night. His days were passed
chiefly in attendance upon Lady Fareham--singing and playing, fetching and
carrying combing her favourite spaniel with the same ivory pocket-comb that
arranged his own waterfall curls; or reading a French romance to her, or
teaching her the newest game of cards, or the last dancing-step imported
from Fontainebleau or St. Cloud, or some new grace or fashion in dancing,
the holding of the hand lower or higher; the latest manner of passaging
in a bransle or a coranto, as performed by the French King and Madame
Henriette, the two finest dancers in France; Conde, once so famous for his
dancing, now appearing in those gay scenes but seldom.
"Have you any commands for Paris, Hyacinth?" repeated Lord Fareham, his
wife being for the moment too surprised to answer him. "Or have you,
sister? I am starting for France to-morrow. I shall ride to Dover--lying a
night at Sittingbourne, perhaps--and cross by the Packet that goes twice a
week to Calais."
"Paris! And pray, my lord, what business takes you to Paris?"
"There is a great collection of books to be sold there next week. The
library of your old admirer, Nicolas Fouquet, whom you knew in his
splendour, but who has been a prisoner at Pignerol for a year and a half."
"Poor wretch!" cried De Malfort, "I was at the Chamber with Madame de
Sevigne very often during his long tedious trial. Mon dieu! what courage,
what talent he showed in defending himself! Every safeguard of the law was
violated in order to silence him and prove him guilty; his papers seized
in his absence, no friend or servant allowed to protect his interest,
no inventory taken--documents suppressed that might have served for his
defence, forgeries inserted by his foes. He had an implacable enemy, and
he the highest in the land. He was the scapegoat of the past, and had
to answer for a system of plunder that made Mazarin the richest man in
"I don't wonder that Louis was angry with a servant who had the insolence
to entertain his Majesty with a splendour that surpassed his own," said
Lady Fareham. "I should like to have been at those fetes at Vaux. But
although Fareham talks so lightly of travelling to Paris to choose a few
dusty books, he has always discouraged me from going there to see old
friends, and my own house--which I grieve to think of--abandoned to the
carelessness of servants."
"Dearest, the cleverest woman in the world cannot be in two places at once;
and it seems to me you have ever had your days here so full of agreeable
engagements that you can have scarcely desired to leave London," answered
Fareham, with his grave smile.
"To leave London--no! But there have been long moping months in Oxfordshire
when it would have been a relief to change the scene."
"Then, indeed, had you been very earnest in wanting such a change, I am
sure you would have taken it. I have never forbidden your going to Paris,
nor refused to accompany you there. You may go with me to-morrow, if you
can be ready."
"Which you know I cannot, or you would scarce make so liberal an offer."
"Tres chere, you are pleased to be petulant. But I repeat my question. Is
there anything you want at Paris?"
"Anything? A million things! Everything! But they are things which you
would not be able to choose--except, perhaps, some of the new lace. I
might trust you to buy that, though I'll wager you will bring me a hideous
pattern--and some white Cypress powder--and a piece of the ash-coloured
velvet Madame wore last winter. I have friends who can choose for you, if
I write to them; and you will have but to bring the goods, and see they
suffer no harm on the voyage. And you can go to the Rue de Tourain and see
whether my servants are keeping the house in tolerable order."
"With your ladyship's permission I will lodge there while I am in Paris,
which will be but long enough to attend the sale of books, and see some old
friends. If I am detained it will be by finding my friends out of town, and
having to make a journey to see them. I shall not go beyond Fontainebleau
"Dear Fontainebleau! It is of all French palaces my favourite. I always
envy Diana of Poitiers for having her cypher emblazoned all over that
lovely gallery--Henri and Diane! Diane and Henri! Ah, me!"
"You envy her a kind of notoriety which I do not covet for my wife!"
"You always take one au pied de la lettre; but seriously, Madame de Breze
was an honest woman compared with the lady who lodges by the Holbein Gate."
"I admit that sin wears a bolder front than it did in the last century.
Angela, can I find nothing for you in Paris?"
"No; I thank your lordship. You and sister are both so generous to me that
I have lost the capacity to wish for anything."
"And as Lewin crosses the Channel three or four times a year, I doubt we
positively have the Paris fashions as soon as the Parisians themselves,"
"That is an agreeable hallucination with which Englishwomen have ever
consoled themselves for not being French," said De Malfort, who sat lolling
against the marble balustrade, nursing the guitar on which he had been
playing when Fareham interrupted their noontide idleness; "but your
ladyship may be sure that London milliners are ever a twelvemonth in the
rear of Paris fashions. It is not that they do not see the new mode. They
see it, and think it hideous; and it takes a year to teach them that it is
the one perfect style possible."
"I was not thinking of kerchiefs or petticoats," said Fareham. "You are a
book-lover, sister, like myself. Can I bring you no books you wish for?"
"If there were a new comedy by Moliere; but I fear it is wrong to read him,
since in his late play, performed before the King at Versailles, he is so
cruel an enemy to our Church."
"A foe only to hypocrites and pretenders, Angela. I will bring you his
_Tartuffe_, if it is printed; or still better, _Le Misanthrope_, which I am
told is the finest comedy that was ever written; and the latest romance, in
twenty volumes or so, by one of those lady authors Hyacinth so admires, but
which I own to finding as tedious as the divine Orinda's verses."
"You can jeer at that poor lady's poetry, yet take pleasure in such
balderdash as Hudibras!"
"I love wit, dearest; though I am not witty. But as for your Princesse de
Cleves, I find her ineffably dull."
"That is because you do not take the trouble to discover for whom the
characters are meant. You lack the key to the imbroglio," said his wife,
with a superior air.
"I do not care for a book that is a series of enigmas. Don Quixote needs no
such guess-work. Shakespeare's characters are painted not from the petty
models of yesterday and to-day, but from mankind in every age and every
climate. Moliere's and Calderon's personages stand on as solid a basis. In
less than half a century your 'Grand Cyrus' will be insufferable jargon."
"Not more so than your _Hamlet_ or _Othello_. Shakespeare was but kept in
fashion during the late King's reign because his Majesty loved him--and
will soon be forgotten, now that we have so many gayer and brisker
"Whoever quotes Shakespeare, nowadays?" asked Lady Sarah Tewkesbury, who
had been showing a rustic niece the beauties of the river, as seen from
Fareham House. "Even Mr. Taylor, whose sermons bristle with elegant
allusions, never points one of his passionate climaxes with a Shakespearian
line. And yet there are some very fine lines in _Hamlet_ and _Macbeth_,
which would scarce sound amiss from the pulpit," added her ladyship,
condescendingly. "I have read all the plays, some of them twice over. And I
doubt that though Shakespeare cannot hold the stage in our more enlightened
age, and will be less and less acted as the town grows more refined, his
works will always be tasted by scholars; among whom, in my modest way, I
dare reckon myself."
* * * * *
Lord Fareham left London on horseback, with but one servant, in the early
August dawn, before the rest of the household were stirring. Hyacinth lay
nearly as late of a morning as Henrietta Maria, whom Charles used sometimes
to reproach for not being up in time for the noonday office at her own
chapel. Lady Fareham had not Portuguese Catherine's fervour, who was often
at Mass at seven o'clock; but she did usually contrive to be present at
High Mass at the Queen's chapel; and this was the beginning of her day. By
that time Angela and her niece and nephew had spent hours on the river, or
in the meadows at Chiswick, or on Putney Heath, ever glad to escape from
the great overgrown city, which was now licking up every stretch of green
sward, and every flowery hedgerow west of St. James's Street. Soon there
would be no country between the Haymarket and "The Pillars of Hercules."
Denzil sometimes enjoyed the privilege of accompanying Angela, children,
and _gouvernante_, on these rural expeditions by the great waterway; and on
such occasions he and Angela would each take an oar and row the boat for
some part of the voyage, while the watermen rested, and in this manner
Angela, instructed by Sir Denzil, considerably advanced her power as
an oarswoman. It was an exercise she loved, as indeed she loved all
out-of-door exercises, from riding with hawks and hounds to battledore
and shuttlecock. But most of all, perhaps, she loved the river, and the
rhythmical dip of oars in the fresh morning air, when every curve of the
fertile shores seemed to reveal new beauty.
It had been a hot, dry summer, and the grass in the parks was burnt to a
dull brown--had, indeed, almost ceased to be grass--while the atmosphere in
town had a fiery taste, and was heavy with the dust which whitened all the
roadways, and which the faintest breath of wind dispersed. Here on the
flowing tide there was coolness, and the long rank grass upon those low
sedgy shores was still green.
Lady Fareham supported the August heats sitting on her terrace, with a
cluster of friends about her, and her musicians and singing-boys grouped
in the distance, ready to perform at her bidding; but Henriette and her
brother soon tired of that luxurious repose, and would urge their aunt
to assist in a river expedition. The _gouvernante_ was fat and lazy and
good-tempered, had attended upon Henriette from babyhood, and always did as
she was told.
"Her ladyship says I must have some clever person instead of Priscilla
before I am a year older," Henriette told her aunt; "but I have promised
poor old Prissy to hate the new person consumedly."
Angela and Denzil laughed as they rowed past the ruined abbey, seen dimly
across the low water-meadow, where cows of the same colour were all lying
in the same attitude, chewing the cud.
"I think Mr. Spavinger's trick must have cured your sister's fine friends
of all belief in ghosts," he said.
"I doubt they would be as ready to believe--or to pretend to
believe--to-morrow," answered Angela. "They think of nothing from morning
till night but how to amuse themselves; and when every pleasure has been
exhausted, I suppose fear comes in as a form of entertainment, and they
want the shock of seeing a ghost."
"There have been no more midnight parties since Lady Sarah's assembly, I
"Not among people of quality, perhaps; but there have been citizens'
parties. I heard Monsieur de Malfort telling my sister about a supper given
by a wealthy wine-cooper's lady from Aldersgate. The city people copy
everything that their superiors wear or do."
"Even to their morals," said Denzil. "'Twere happy if the so-called
superiors would remember that, and upon what a fertile ground they sow
the seed of new vices. It is like the importation of a new weed or a new
insect, which, beginning with an accident, may end in ruined crops and a
Without deliberate disobedience to her husband, Lady Fareham made the best
use of her time during his absence in Paris. The public theatres had not
yet re-opened after the horror of the plague. Whitehall was a desert, the
King and his chief following being at Tunbridge. It was the dullest season
of the year, and the recrudescence of the contagion in the low-lying towns
along the Thames--Deptford, Greenwich, and the neighbourhood--together with
some isolated cases in London, made people more serious than usual, despite
of the so-called victory over the Dutch, which, although a mixed benefit,
was celebrated piously by a day of General Thanksgiving.
Hyacinth, disgusted at the dulness of the town, was for ordering her
coaches and retiring to Chilton.
"It is mortal dull at the Abbey," she said, "but at least we have the
hawks, and breezy hills to ride over, instead of this sickly city
atmosphere, which to my nostrils smells of the pestilence."
Henri de Malfort argued against such a retreat.
"It were a deliberate suicide," he said. "London, when everybody has
left--all the bodies we count worthy to live, _par exemple_--is a more
delightful place than you can imagine. There are a host of vulgar
amusements which you would not dare to visit when your friends are in town;
and which are ten times as amusing as the pleasures you know by heart. Have
you ever been to the Bear Garden? I'll warrant you no, though 'tis but
across the river at Bankside. We'll go there this afternoon, if you like,
and see how the common people taste life. Then there are the gardens at
Islington. There are mountebanks, and palmists, and fortune-tellers,
who will frighten you out of your wits for a shilling. There's a man at
Clerkenwell, a jeweller's journeyman from Venice, who pretends to practise
the transmutation of metals, and to make gold. He squeezed hundreds out of
that old miser Denham, who was afraid to have the law of him for imposture,
lest all London should laugh at his own credulity and applaud the
cheat. And you have not seen the Italian puppet-play, which is vastly
entertaining. I could find you novelty and amusement for a month."
"Find anything new, even if it fail to amuse me. I am sick of everything I
"And then there is our midnight party at Millbank, the ghost-party, at
which you are to frighten your dearest friends out of their poor little
"Most of my dearest friends are in the country."
"Nay, there is Lady Lucretia Topham, whom I know you hate; and Lady Sarah
and the Dubbins are still in Covent Garden."
"I will have no Dubbin--a toping wretch--and she is a too incongruous
mixture, with her Edinburgh lingo and her Whitehall arrogance. Besides, the
whole notion of a mock ghost was vulgarised by Wilmot's foolery, who ought
to have been born a saltimbanque, and spent his life in a fair. No, I have
abandoned the scheme."
"What! after I have been taxing my invention to produce the most terrible
illusion that was ever witnessed? Will you let a clown like Spavinger--a
well-born stable-boy--baulk us of our triumph? I am sending to Paris for
a powder to burn in a corner of the room, which will throw the ghastliest
pallor upon your countenance. When I devise a ghost, it shall be no
impromptu spectre in yellow riding-boots, but a vision so awful, so true
an image of a being returned from the dead, that the stoutest nerves will
thrill and tremble at the apparition. The nun's habit is coming from Paris.
I have asked my cousin, Madame de Fiesque, to obtain it for me at the
"You are taking a vast deal of trouble. But what kind of assembly can we
muster at this dead season?" "Leave all in my hands. I will find you some
of the choicest spirits. It is to be _my_ party. I will not even tell you
what night I fix upon, till all is ready. So make no engagements for your
evenings, and tell nobody anything."
"Who invented that powder?"
"A French chemist. He has it of all colours, and can flood a scene in
golden light, or the rose of dawn, or the crimson of sunset, or a pale
silvery blueness that you would swear was moonshine. It has been used in
all the Court ballets. I saw Madame once look as ghastly as death itself,
and all the Court was seized with terror. Some blundering fool had
burnt the wrong powder, which cast a greenish tint over the faces, and
Henriette's long thin features had a look of death. It seemed the forecast
of an early grave; and some of us shuddered, as at a prophecy of evil."
"You might expect the worst in her case, knowing the wretched life she
leads with Monsieur."
"Yes, when she is with him; but that is not always. There are
"If you mean scandal, I will not hear a word. She is adorable. The most
sympathetic person I know--good even to her enemies--who are legion."
"You had better not say that, for I doubt she has only one kind of enemy."
"The admirers she has encouraged and disappointed. Yes, she is adorable,
wofully thin, and, I fear, consumptive, but royal: and adorable, 'douceur
et lumiere,' as Bossuet calls her. But to return to my ghost-party."
"If you were wise, you would abandon the notion. I doubt that in spite of
your powders your friends will never believe in a ghost."
"Oh yes, they will. It shall be my business to get them in the proper
That idea of figuring in a picturesque habit, and in a halo of churchyard
light, was irresistible. Hyacinth promised to conform to Malfort's plans,
and to be ready to assume her phantom _role_ whenever she was called upon.
Angela knew something of the scheme, and that there was to be another
assembly at Millbank; but her sister had seemed disinclined to talk of
the plan in her presence--a curious reticence in one whose sentiments and
caprices were usually given to the world at large with perfect freedom. For
once in her life Hyacinth had a secret air, and checked herself suddenly in
the midst of her light babble at a look from De Malfort, who had urged her
to keep her sister out of their midnight party.
"I pledge my honour that there shall be nothing to offend," he told her,
"but I hope to have the wittiest coxcombs in London, and we want no prudes
to strangle every jest with a long-drawn lip and an alarmed eye. Your
sister has a pale, fragile prettiness which pleases an eye satiated with
the exuberant charms of your Rubens and Titian women; but she is not
handsome enough to give herself airs; and she is a little inclined that
way. By the faith of a gentleman, I have suffered scowls from her that I
would scarce have endured from Barbara!"
"Barbara! You are vastly free with her ladyship's name."
"Not freer than she has ever been with her friendship."
"Henri, if I thought----"
"That you had ever cared for that--wanton----"
"Could you think it, when you know my life in England has been one long
tragedy of loving in vain--of sighing only to be denied--of secret
tears--and public submission."
"Do not talk so," she exclaimed, starting up from her low tabouret, and
moving hastily to the open window, to fresh air and sunshine, rippling
river and blue sky, escaping from an atmosphere that had become feverish.
"De Malfort, you know I must not listen to foolish raptures."
"I know you have been refusing to hear for the last two years."
They were on the terrace now, she leaning on the broad marble balustrade,
he standing beside her, and all the traffic of London moving with the tide
"To return to our party," she said, in a lighter tone, for that spurt of
jealousy had betrayed her into seriousness. "It will be very awkward not to
invite my sister to go with me."
"If you did she would refuse, belike, for she is under Fareham's thumb; and
he disapproves of everything human."
"Under Fareham's thumb! What nonsense! Indeed I must invite her. She would
think it so strange to be omitted."
"Not if you manage things cleverly. The party is to be a surprise. You can
tell her next morning you knew nothing about it beforehand."
"But she will hear me order the barge--or will see me start."
"There will be no barge. I shall carry you to Millbank in my coach, after
your evening's entertainment, wherever that may be."
"I had better take my own carriage at least, or my chair."
"You can have a chair, if you are too prudish to use my coach, but it shall
be got for you at the moment. We won't have your own chairman and links to
chatter and betray you before you have played the ghost. Remember you
come to my party not as a guest, but as a performer. If they ask why Lady
Fareham is absent I shall say you refused to take part in our foolery."
"Oh, you must invent some better excuse. They will never believe anything
rational of me. Say I was disappointed of a hat or a mantua. Well, it
shall be as you wish. Angela is apt to be tiresome. I hate a disapproving
carriage, especially in a younger sister."
Angela was puzzled by Hyacinth's demeanour. A want of frankness in one so
frank by nature aroused her fears. She was puzzled and anxious, and longed
for Fareham's return, lest his giddy-pated wife should be guilty of some
innocent indiscretion that might vex him.
"Oh! if she but valued him at his just worth she would value his opinion
second only to the approval of conscience," she thought, sadly, ever
regretful of her sister's too obvious indifference towards so kind a
WHICH WAS THE FIERCER FIRE?
It was Saturday, the first of September, and the hot dry weather having
continued with but trifling changes throughout the month, the atmosphere
was at its sultriest, and the burnt grass in the parks looked as if even
the dews of morning and evening had ceased to moisten it, while the arid
and dusty foliage gave no feeling of coolness, and the very shadows cast
upon that parched ground seemed hot. Morning was sultry as noon; evening
brought but little refreshment; while the night was hotter than the day.
People complained that the season was even more sickly than in the plague
year, and prophesied a new and worse outbreak of the pestilence. Was not
this the fatal year about which there had been darkest prophecies? 1666!
Something awful, something tragical was to make this triplicate of sixes
for ever memorable. Sixty-five had been terrible, sixty-six was to bring
a greater horror; doubtless a recrudescence of that dire malady which had
"And this time," says one modish raven, "'twill be the quality that will
suffer. The lower 'classis' has paid its penalty, and only the strong and
hardy are left. We. have plenty of weaklings and corrupt constitutions that
will take fire at a spark. I should not wonder were the contagion to rage
worst at Whitehall. The buildings lie low, and there is ever a nucleus
of fever somewhere in that conglomeration of slaughter-houses, bakeries,
kitchens, stables, cider-houses, coal-yards, and over-crowded servants'
"One gets but casual whiffs from their private butcheries and bakeries,"
says another. "What I complain of is the atmosphere of his Majesty's
apartments, where one can scarce breathe for the stench of those cursed
spaniels he so delights in."
Every one agreed that the long dry summer menaced some catastrophic change
which should surprise this easy-going age as the plague had done last year.
But oh, how lightly that widespread calamity had touched those light minds!
and, if Providence had designed to warn or to punish, how vain had been
the warning, and how soon forgotten the penalty that had left the worst
There was to be a play at Whitehall that evening, his Majesty and the Court
having returned from Tunbridge Wells, the business of the navy calling
Charles to council with his faithful General--_the_ General _par
excellence_, George Monk, Duke of Albemarle, and his Lord High Admiral and
brother--_par excellence_ the Duke. Even in briefest residence, and on
sternest business intent, with the welfare and honour of the nation
contingent on their consultations, to build or not to build warships of the
first magnitude, the ball of pleasure must be kept rolling. So Killigrew
was to produce a new version of an old comedy, written in the forties,
but now polished up to the modern style of wit. This new-old play, _The
Parson's Widow_, was said to be all froth and sparkle and current interest,
fresh as the last _London Gazette_, and spiced with allusions to the
late sickness, an admirable subject, and allowing a wide field for the
Hyacinth was to be present at this Court function; but not a word was to be
said to Angela about the entertainment.
"She would only preach me a sermon upon Fareham's tastes and wishes, and
urge me to stay away because he abhors a fashionable comedy," she told De
Malfort, "I shall say I am going to Lady Sarah's to play basset. Ange hates
cards, and will not desire to go with me. She is always happy with the
children, who adore her."
"Faute de mieux."
"You are so ready to jeer! Yes, I know I am a neglectful mother. But what
would you have?"
"I would have you as you are," he answered, "and only as you are; or for
choice a trifle worse than you are; and so much nearer my own level."
"Oh, I know you! It is the wicked women you admire--like Madame Palmer."
"Always harping upon Barbara. 'My mother had a maid called Barbara.' His
Majesty has--a lady of the same melodious name. Well, I have a world of
engagements between now and nine o'clock, when the play begins. I shall be
at the door to lift you out of your chair. Cover yourself with your richest
jewels--or at least those you love best--so that you may blaze like the sun
when you cast off the nun's habit. All the town will be there to admire
"All the town! Why, there is no one in London!"
"Indeed, you mistake. Travelling is so easy nowadays. People tear to and
fro between Tunbridge and St James's as often as they once circulated
betwixt London and Chelsea. Were it not for the highwaymen we should be
always on the road."
Angela and her niece were on the terrace in the evening coolness. The
atmosphere was less oppressive here by the flowing tide than anywhere
else in London; but even here there was a heaviness in the night air, and
Henriette sprawled her long thin legs wearily on the cushioned bench where
she lay, and vowed that it would be sheer folly for Priscilla to insist
upon her going to bed at her usual hour of nine, when everybody knew she
could not sleep.
"I scarce closed my eyes last night," she protested, "and I had half a
mind to put on a petticoat and come down to the terrace. I could have come
through the yellow drawing-room, where the men usually forget to close the
shutters. And I should have brought my theorbo and serenaded you. Should
you have taken me for a fairy, chere, if you had heard me singing?"
"I should have taken you for a very silly little person who wanted to
frighten her friends by catching an inflammation of the lungs."
"Well, you see, I thought better of it, though it would have been
impossible to catch cold on such a stifling night I heard every clock
strike in Westminster and London. It was light at five, yet the night
seemed endless. I would have welcomed even a mouse behind the wainscot.
Priscilla is an odious tyrant," making a face at the easy-tempered
gouvernante sitting by; "she won't let me have my dogs in my room at
"Your ladyship knows that dogs in a bed-chamber are unwholesome," said
"No, you foolish old thing; my ladyship knows the contrary; for his
Majesty's bed-chamber swarms with them, and he has them on his bed
even--whole families--mothers and their puppies. Why can't I have a few
dear little mischievous innocents to amuse me in the long dreary nights?"