Part 6 out of 9
Lady Sarah sat simpering and nodding as Masaroon whispered close in her
Barbara? Oh, that was almost as old as the story of Antony and Cleopatra.
She had paid his debts--and he had paid hers. Their purse had been in
common. And the handsome maid of honour? Ah, poor silly soul! That was a
horrid, ugly business, and his Majesty's part in it the horridest. And Mrs.
Levington, the rich silk mercer's wife? That was a serious attachment. It
was said that the husband attempted poison, when De Malfort refused him the
satisfaction of a gentleman. And the poor woman was sent to die of _ennui_
and rheumatism in a castle among the Irish bogs, where her citizen husband
had set up as a landed squire.
The fine company discussed all these foul stories with gusto, insinuating
much more than they expressed in words. Never until to-day had they spoken
so freely of De Malfort in Lady Fareham's presence; but the story had got
about of a breach between Hyacinth and her admirer, and it was supposed
that any abuse of the defaulter would be pleasant in her ears. And then,
he was ruined and gone; and there is no vulture's feast sweeter than to
banquet upon a departed rival's character.
Hyacinth listened in dull silence, as if her sensations were suddenly
benumbed. She felt nothing but a horrible surprise. Her lover--her platonic
lover--that other half of her mind and heart--with whom she had been in
such tender sympathy, in unison of spirit, so subtle that the same thoughts
sprang up simultaneously in the minds of each, the same language leapt to
their lips, and they laughed to find their words alike. It had been only a
shallow woman's shallow love--but trivial woes are tragedies for trivial
minds; and when her guests had gradually melted away, dispersing themselves
with reciprocal curtsies and airy compliments, elegant in their modish
iniquity as a troop of vicious fairies--Hyacinth stood on the hearth where
they had left her, a statue of despair.
Angela went to her, when the stately double doors had closed on the last
of the gossips and lackeys, and they two were alone amidst the spacious
splendour. The younger sister hugged the elder to her breast, and kissed
her, and cried over her, like a mother comforting her disappointed child.
"Don't heed that shameful talk, dearest. No character is safe with them. Be
sure Monsieur de Malfort is not the reprobate they would make him. You have
known him nearly all your life. You know him too well to judge him by the
idle talk of the town."
"No, no; I have never known him. He has always worn a mask. He is as false
as Satan. Don't talk to me--don't kiss me, child. You have smeared my face
horribly with your kisses and tears. Your pity drives me mad. How can you
understand these things--you who have never loved any one? What can you
know of what women feel? There, silly fool! you are trembling as if I had
hit you," as Angela withdrew her arms suddenly, and stood aloof. "I have
been a virtuous wife, sister, in a town where scarce one woman in ten is
true to her marriage vows. I have never sinned against my husband; but I
have never loved him. Henri had my heart before I knew what the word, love
meant; and in all these years we have loved each other with the purest,
noblest affection--at least he made me believe my love was reciprocated.
We have enjoyed a most exquisite communion of thought and feeling. His
letters--you shall read his letters some day--so noble, so brilliant--all
poetry, and chivalry, and wit. I lived upon his letters when fate parted
us. And when he followed us to England, I thought it was for my sake that
he came--only for me. And to hear that he was her lover--hers--that woman!
To know that he came to me--with sweetest words upon his lips--knelt to
kiss the tips of my fingers--as if it were a privilege to die for--from
her arms, from her caresses--the wickedest woman in England--and the
"Dear Hyacinth, it was a childish dream--and you have awakened! You will
live to be glad of being recalled from falsehood to truth. Your husband is
worth fifty De Malforts, did you but know it. Oh, dearest, give him your
heart who ought to be its only master. Indeed he is worthy. He stands
apart--an honourable, nobly thinking man in a world that is full of
libertines. Be sure he deserves your love."
"Don't preach to me, child! If you could give me a sleeping-draught
that would blot out memory for ever--make me forget my childhood in the
Marais--my youth at St. Germain--the dances at the Louvre--all the days
when I was happiest: why, then, perhaps, you might make me in love with
"You will begin a new life, sister, now De Malfort is gone."
"I will never forgive him for going!" cried Hyacinth, passionately.
"Never--never! To give me no note of warning! To sneak away like a thief
who had stolen my diamonds! To fly for debt, too, and not come to me for
money! Why have I a fortune, if not to help those I love? But--if he was
that woman's lover--I will never see his face again--never speak his
name--never--from the moment I am convinced of that hellish treason--never!
Her lover! Lady Castlemaine's! We have laughed at her, together! Her lover!
And there were other women those spiteful wretches talked about just now--a
tradesman's wife! Oh, how hateful, how hateful it all is! Angela, if it is
true, I shall go mad!"
"Dearest, to you he was but a friend--and though you may be sorry he was so
great a sinner, his sins cannot concern your happiness----"
"What! not to know him a profligate? The man to whom I gave a chaste
woman's love! Angela, that night, in the ruined abbey, I let him kiss me.
Yes, for one moment I was in his arms--and his lips were on mine. And he
had kissed her--the same night perhaps. Her tainted kisses were on his
lips. And it was you who saved me! Dear sister, I owe you more than life--I
might have given myself to everlasting shame that night. God knows! I was
in his power--her lover--judging all women, perhaps, by his knowledge of
The epithet which closed the sentence was not a word for a woman's lips;
but it was wrung from the soreness of a woman's wounded heart.
Hyacinth flung herself distractedly into her sister's arms.
"You saved me!" she cried, hysterically. "He wanted me to go to Dover with
him--back to France--where we were so happy. He knelt to me, and I refused
him; but he prayed me again and again; and if you had not come to rescue
me, should I have gone on saying no? God knows if my courage would have
held out. There were tears in his eyes. He swore that he had never loved
any one upon this earth as he loved me. Hypocrite! Deceiver--liar! He loved
that woman! Twenty times handsomer than ever I was--a hundred times more
wicked. It is the wicked women that are best loved, Angela, remember that.
Oh, bless you for coming to save me! You saved Fareham's life in the plague
year. You saved me from everlasting misery. You are our guardian angel!"
"Ah, dearest, if love could guard you, I might deserve that name----"
* * * * *
It was late in the same evening that Lady Fareham's maid came to her
bed-chamber to inquire if she would be pleased to see Mrs. Lewin, who had
brought a pattern of a new French bodice, with her humble apologies for
waiting on her ladyship so late.
Her ladyship would see Mrs. Lewin. She started up from the sofa where she
had been lying, her forehead bound with a handkerchief steeped in Hungary
water. She was all excitement.
"Bring her here instantly!" she said, and the interval necessary to conduct
the milliner up the grand staircase and along the gallery seemed an age to
"Well? Have you a letter for me?" she asked, when her woman had retired,
and Mrs. Lewin had bustled and curtsied across the room.
"In truly, my lady; and I have to ask your ladyship's pardon for not
bringing it early this morning, when his honour gave it to me with his own
hand out of 'his travelling carriage. And very white and wasted he looked,
dear gentleman, not fit for a voyage to France in this severe weather. And
I was to carry you his letter immediately; but, eh, gud! your ladyship,
there was never such a business as mine for surprises. I was putting on my
cloak to step out with your ladyship's letter, when a coach, with a footman
in the royal undress livery, sets down at my door, and one of the Duchess's
women had come to fetch me to her Highness; and there I was kept in her
Highness's chamber half the morning, disputing over a paduasoy for the
Shrove Tuesday masquerade--for her Highness gets somewhat bulky, and is
not easy to dress to her advantage or to my credit--though she is a beauty
compared with the Queen, who still hankers after her hideous Portuguese
"And employs your rival, Madame Marifleur----"
"Marifleur! If your ladyship knew the creature as well as I do, you'd call
her Sally Cramp."
"I never can remember a low English name. Marifleur seems to promise all
that there is of the most graceful and airy in a ruffled sleeve and a
"I am glad to see your ladyship is in such good spirits," said the
milliner, wondering at Lady Fareham's flushed cheeks and brilliant eyes.
They were brilliant with a somewhat glassy brightness, and there was a
touch of hysteria in her manner. Mrs. Lewin thought she had been drinking.
Many of her customers ended that way--took to cognac and ratafia, when
choicer pleasures were exhausted and wrinkles began to show through their
Hyacinth was reading De Malfort's letter as she talked, moving about the
room a little, and then stopping in front of the fireplace, where the light
from two clusters of wax candles shone down upon the finely written page.
Mrs. Lewin watched her for a few minutes, and then produced some pieces of
silk out of her muff.
"I made so bold as to bring your ladyship some patterns of Italian silks
which only came to hand this morning," she said. "There is a cherry-red
that would become your ladyship to the T."
"Make me a gown of it, my excellent Lewin--and good night to you."
"But sure your ladyship will look at the colour? There is a pattern of
amber with gold thread might please you better. Lady Castlemaine has
ordered a Court mantua----"
Lady Fareham rang her hand-bell with a vehemence that suggested anger.
"Show Mrs. Lewin to her coach," she said shortly, when her woman appeared.
"When you have done that you may go to bed; I want nothing more to-night."
"Mrs. Kirkland has been asking to see your ladyship."
"I will see no one to-night. Tell Mrs. Kirkland so, with my love."
She ran to the door when the maid and milliner were gone, and locked it,
and then ran back to the fireplace, and flung herself down upon the rug to
read her letter.
"Cherie, when this is handed to you, I shall be sitting in my coach on the
dull Dover road, with frost-clouded windows and a heart heavier than your
leaden skies. Loveliest of women, all things must end; and, despite your
childlike trust in man's virtue, you could scarce hope for eternity to a
bond that was too strong for friendship and too weak for love. Dearest, had
you given yourself that claim upon love and honour which we have talked of,
and which you have ever refused, no lesser power than death should have
parted us. I would have dared all, conquered all, for my dear mistress.
But you would not. It was not for lack of fervid prayers that the statue
remained a statue; but a man cannot go on worshipping a statue for ever. If
the Holy Mother did not sometimes vouchsafe a sign of human feeling, even
good Catholics would have left off kneeling to her image.
"Or, shall I say, rather, that the child remains a child--fresh, and pure,
and innocent, and candid, as in the days when we played our _jeu de volant_
in your grandmother's garden--fit emblem of the light love of our future
years. You remained a child, Hyacinth, and asked childish love-making from
a man. Dearest, accept a cruel truth from a man of the world--it is only
the love you call guilty that lasts. There is a stimulus in sin and mystery
that will fan the flame of passion and keep love alive even for an inferior
object. The ugly women know this, and make lax morals a substitute for
beauty. An innocent intrigue, a butterfly affection like ours, will seldom
outlive the butterfly's brief day. Indeed, I sometimes admire at myself as
a marvel of constancy for having kept faith so long with a mistress who has
rewarded me so sparingly.
"So, my angel, I am leaving your foggy island, my cramped London lodgings,
and extortionate London tradesmen, on whom I have squandered so much of my
fortune that they ought to forgive me for leaving a margin of debt, which I
hope to pay the extortioners hereafter for the honour of my name. I doubt
if I shall ever revisit England. I have tasted all London pleasures, till
familiarity has taken the taste out of them; and though Paris may be only
London with a difference, that difference includes bluer skies, brighter
streets and gardens, and all the originals of which you have here the
copies. There, at least, I shall have the fashion of my peruke and my
speech at first hand. Here you only adopt a mode when Paris begins to tire
"Farewell, then, dearest lady, but let it be no tragical or eternal
parting, since your fine house in the Rue de Touraine will doubtless be
honoured with your presence some day. You have only to open a salon there
in order to be the top of the mode. Some really patrician milieu is needed
to replace the antique court of the dear old Marquise, and to extinguish
the Scudery, whose Saturdays grow more vulgar every week. Yes, you will
come to Paris, bringing that human lily, Mrs. Angela, in your train; and I
promise to make you the fashion before your house has been open a month.
The wits and Court favourites will go where I bid them. And though your
dearest friend, Madame de Longueville, has retired from the world in
which she was more queenly than the Queen, you will find Mademoiselle de
Montpensier as faithful as ever to mundane pleasures, and, after having
refused kings and princes, slavishly devoted to a colonel of dragoons who
does not care a straw for her.
"Louise de Bourbon, a woman who can head a revolt and fire a cannon, would
think no sacrifice too great for a cold-hearted schemer like Lauzun--yet
you who swore you loved me, when the coach was waiting that would have
carried me to paradise, and made us one for all this life, could suffer a
foolish girl to separate us in the very moment of triumphant union. You
were mine, Hyacinth; heart and mind were consenting, when your convent-bred
sister surprised us, and all my hopes of bliss expired in a sermon. And now
I can but say, with that witty rhymester, whom everybody in London quotes--
'Love in your heart as idly burns,
As fire in antique Roman urns.'
"Good-bye, which means 'God be with you.' I know not if the fear of Him was
in your mind when you sacrificed your lover to that icy abstraction women
call virtue. The Romans had but one virtue, which meant the courage that
dares; and to me the highest type of woman would be one whose bold spirit
dared and defied the world for love's sake. These are the women history
remembers, and whom the men who live after them worship. Cleopatra,
Mary Stuart, Diana of Poictiers, Marguerite de Valois, la Chevreuse, la
Montbazon! Think you that these became famous by keeping their lovers at a
"'Go, lovely rose!'
"How often I have sung those lines, and you have listened, and nothing
has come of it; except time wasted, smiles, sighs, and tears, that ever
promised, and ever denied. Beauty, too choice to be kind, adieu!
When she had read these last words, she crushed the letter in her palm,
clenching her fingers over it till the nails wounded the delicate flesh;
and then she opened her hand, and employed herself in smoothing out the
crumpled paper, as if her life depended on making the letter readable
again. But her pains could not undo what her passion had done; and finding
this, she tossed the ragged paper into the flames, and began to walk about
the room in a distracted fashion, giving a little hysterical cry every now
and then, and clasping her hands upon her forehead.
Anger, humiliation, wounded love, wounded vanity, disappointment,
disillusion, were all in that cry, and in the passionate beating of her
heart, her stifled breath, her clenched hands.
"He was laughing when he wrote that letter--I am sure he was laughing.
There was not one serious moment, not one pang at leaving me! He has been
laughing at me ever since he came to London. I have been his fool, his
amusement. Other women have had his love, the guilty love that he praises!
He has come to me straight from their wicked houses, their feasting, and
riot, and drunkenness--has come and pretended to love poetry, and Scudery's
romances, and music, and innocent conversation--come to rest himself after
dissolute pleasures, bringing me the leavings of that hellish company! And
I have reviled such women, and he has pretended an equal horror of them;
and he was their slave all the time, and went from me to them, and made a
jest of me for their amusement I know his biting raillery. And he was at
the play-house day after day, where I could not go, sitting side by
side with his Jezebels, laughing at filthy comedies, and at me that was
forbidden to appear there. He had pleasures of which I knew nothing; and
when I fancied our inmost souls moved in harmony, his thoughts were full of
wanton women and their wanton jests, and he smiled at my childishness, and
fooled me as children are fooled."
The thought was distraction. She plucked out handfuls of her pale gold
hair, the pretty blonde hair which had been almost as famous in Paris as
Beaufort's or Madame de Longueville's yellow locks. The thought of De
Malfort's ridicule cut her like a whalebone whip. She had fancied herself
his Beatrice, his Laura, his Stella--a being to be worshipped as reverently
as the stars, to make her lover happy with smiles and kindly words, to
stand for ever a little way off, like a goddess in her temple, yet near
enough to be adored.
And fondly believing this to be her mission, having posed for the
character, and filled it to her own fancy, she found that she had only
been a dissolute man's dupe all the time; and no doubt had been the
laughing-stock of her acquaintance, who looked at the game.
"And I was so proud of his devotion--I carried my slave everywhere with me.
Oh, fool, fool, fool!"
And then--the poor little brains being disordered by passionate
regrets--wickedest ideas ran riot in the confusion of a mind not wide
enough to hold life's large passions. She began to be sorry that she was
not like those other women--to hate the modesty that had lost her a lover.
To be like Barbara Castlemaine! That was woman's only royalty. To rule with
sovereign power over the hearts and senses of men. A King for her lover,
constant in inconstancy, always going back to her from every transient
fancy--her property, her chattel; and the foremost wits and dandies of the
age for her servants, her Court of adorers, whom she ruled with frowns
or smiles, as her humour prompted. To be daring, profuse, reckless,
tyrannical; to suffer no control of heaven or men--yes, that was, indeed,
to be a Queen! And compared with such empire, the poor authority of the
Precieuse, dictating the choice of adjectives, condemning pronouns,
theorising upon feelings and passions of which in practice she knows
nothing, was a thing for scornfullest laughter.
January was nearly over, the memorial service for the martyred King was
drawing near, and royalty and fashion had deserted Whitehall for Hampton
Court; yet the Farehams lingered at their riverside mansion. His lordship
had business in London, while Sir Denzil Warner, who came to Fareham House
daily, was also detained in the city by some special attraction, which made
hawk and hound, and even his worthy mother's company, indifferent to him.
Lady Fareham had an air of caring for neither town nor country, but on the
whole preferred town.
"London has become a positive desert--and the smoke from the smouldering
ruins poisons the garden and terrace whenever there is an east wind," she
complained. "But Oxfordshire would be a worse desert--and I believe I
should die of the spleen in a week, if I trusted myself in that great
rambling Abbey. I can just suffer life in London; so I suppose I had best
stay till his lordship has finished his business, about which he is so
secret and mysterious."
Denzil was more devoted, more solicitous to please than ever; and had a
better chance of pleasing now that most of her ladyship's fine visitors
had left town. He read aloud to Hyacinth and her sister as they worked--or
pretended to work--at their embroidery frames. He played the organ, and
sang duets with Angela. He walked with her on the terrace, in the cold,
bleak afternoon, and told her the news of the town--not the scandals and
trivialities which alone interested Lady Fareham, but the graver facts
connected with the state and the public welfare--the prospects of war or
peace, the outlook towards France and Spain, Holland and Sweden, Andrew
Marvel's last speech, or the last grant to the King, who might be relied
on to oppose no popular measure when his lieges were about to provide a
handsome subsidy or an increase of his revenue.
"We are winning our liberties from him," Denzil said.
"For the mess of pottage we give, the money he squanders on libertine
pleasures, England is buying freedom. Yet why, in the name of common sense,
maintain this phantom King, this Court which shocks and outrages every
decent Englishman's sense of right, and maintains an ever-widening hotbed
of corruption, so that habits and extravagances once unknown beyond that
focus of all vice, are now spreading as fast as London; and wherever there
are bricks and mortar there are profligacy and irreligion? Can you wonder
that all the best and wisest in this city regret Cromwell's iron rule, the
rule of the strongest, and deplore that so bold a stroke for liberty should
have ended in such foolish subservience to a King of whom we knew nothing
when we begged him to come and reign over us?"
"But if you win liberty while he is King, if wise laws are established--"
"Yes; but we might have been noble as well as free. There is something so
petty in our resumed bondage. Figure to yourself a thoroughbred horse that
had kicked off the traces, and stood free upon the open plain with arched
neck and lifted nostrils, sniffing the morning air! and behold he creeps
back to his harness, and makes himself again a slave! We had done with
the Stuarts, at the cost of a tragedy, and in ten years we call them back
again, and put on the old shackles; and for common sense, religion, and
freedom, we have the orgies of Whitehall, and the extravagance of Lady
Castlemaine. It will not last, Angela; it cannot last. I was with his
lordship in Artillery Row last night, and we talked with the blind sage who
would sacrifice the remnant of his darkened days in the cause of liberty."
"Sir Denzil, I hope you are not plotting mischief--you and my brother,"
Angela said anxiously. "You are so often together; and his lordship has
such a preoccupied air."
"No, no, there is no conspiring; but there is plenty of discontent. It
would need but little to fire the train. Can any man in his senses be happy
when he sees his country, which ten years ago was at the pinnacle of
power and renown, sinking to the appanage of a foreign sovereign; England
threatened with a return to Rome; honest men forbidden to preach the
gospel; and innocent seekers after truth hounded off to gaol, to rot
among malefactors, because they have dared to worship God after their own
"Where was your liberty of conscience under the Protectorate, when the
Liturgy was forbidden as if it were an unholy thing, when the Anglican
priests were turned out of their pulpits, and the Anglican service
tolerated in only one church in all this vast London?" Angela asked
"That was a revolt of deep thinkers against a service which has all the
mechanical artifice of Romanism without its strong appeal to the heart and
the senses--dry, empty, rigid--a repetition of vain phrases. If I am ever
to bow my neck beneath the Church's yoke, let me swallow the warm-blooded
errors of Papacy rather than the heartless formalism of English
"But what can you or Fareham--or a few good men like you--do to change
established things? Remember Venner's plot, and how many lives were wasted
on that foolish, futile attempt. You can only hazard your lives, die on the
scaffold. Or would you like to see civil war again; the nation divided into
opposite camps; Englishmen fighting with Englishmen? Can you forget that
dreadful last year of the Rebellion? I was only a little child; but it is
branded deep on my memory. Can you forget the murder of the King? He was
murdered; let Mr. Milton defend the deed as he can with his riches of big
words. I have wept over the royal martyr's own account of his sufferings."
"Over Dr. Gauden's account, that is to say. 'Eikon Basilike' was no more
written by Charles than by Cromwell. It was a doctored composition--a
churchman's spurious history, trumped up by Charles's friends and
partisans, possibly with the approval of the King himself. It is a fine
piece of special pleading in a bad cause."
"You make me hate you when you talk so slightingly of that so ill-used
King. You will make me hate you more if you lead Fareham into danger by
underhand work against the present King."
"Lies Fareham's safety so very near your heart?"
"It lies in my heart," she answered, looking at him, and defying him with
straight, clear gaze. "Is he not my sister's husband, and to me as a
brother? Do you expect me to be careless about his fate? I know you are
leading him into danger. Some mischief must come of these visits to Mr.
Milton, a Republican outlaw, who has escaped the penalty of his treasonous
pamphlets only because he is blind and old and poor. I doubt there is
danger in all such conferences. Fareham is at heart a Republican. It would
need little persuasion to make him a traitor to the King."
"You have it in your power to make me so much your slave, that I would
sacrifice every patriotic aspiration at your bidding, Angela," Denzil
"I know not if this be the time to speak, or if, after waiting more than a
year, I may not even now be premature. Dearest girl, you know that I love
you--that I haunt this house only because you live here; that I am in
London only because my star shines there; that above all public interests
you rule my life. I have exercised a prodigious patience, only because I
have a prodigious resolution. Is it not time for me to reap my reward?"
"Oh, Denzil, you fill me with sorrow! Have I not said everything to
"And have I not refused to be discouraged? Angela, I am resolved to
discover the reason of your coldness. Was there ever a young and lovely
woman who shut love out of her heart? History has no record of such an
one. I am of an appropriate age, of good birth and good means, not
under-educated, not brutish, or of repulsive face and figure. If your heart
is free I ought to be able to win it. If you will not favour my suit, it
must be because there is some one else, some one who came before me, or who
has crossed my path, and to whom your heart has been secretly given."
She had turned from red to pale as he spoke. She stood before him in the
winter light, with her colour changing, her hands tightly clasped, her eyes
cast down, and tears trembling on the long dark lashes.
"You have no right to question me. It is enough for you to have my honest
answer. I esteem you, but I do not love you; and it distresses me when you
talk of love."
"There is some one else, then! I knew it. There is some one else. For me
you are marble. You are fire for him. He is in your heart. You have said
"How dare you----" she began.
"Why should I shrink from warning you of your danger? It is Fareham you
love. I have seen you tremble at his touch--start at the sound of his
footstep--that step you know so well. His footstep? Why, the very air he
breathes carries to you the consciousness of his approach. Oh, I have
watched you both, Angela; and I know, I know. Jealous pangs have racked me,
day after day; yet I have hung on. I have been very patient. 'She knows not
the sinful impulses of her own heart,' I said, 'knows not in her purity how
near she goes to a fall. Here, in her sister's house, passionately loved by
her sister's husband! She calls him 'brother,' whose eyes cannot look at
her without telling their story of wicked love. She walks on the edge of
a precipice--self-deceived. Were I to abandon her she might fall. My
affection is her only safeguard; and by winning her to myself I shall
snatch her from the pit of hell.'"
It was the truth he was telling her. Yes; even when Fareham was harshest,
she had been dimly conscious that love was at the root of his unkindness.
The coldness that had held them apart since that midnight meeting had been
ice over fire. It was jealousy that had made him so angry. No word of love,
directly spoken, had ever offended her ear; but there had been many a
speech of double meaning that had set her wondering and thinking.
And, oh! the guilt of it, when an honourable man like Denzil set her sin
before her, in plain language. She stood aghast at her own wickedness. That
which had been a sin of thought only, a secret sorrow, wrestled with in
many an hour of heartfelt prayer, with all the labour of a soul that sought
heavenly aid against earthly temptation, was conjured into hideous reality
by Denzil's plain speech. To love her sister's husband, to suffer his
guilty love, to know gladness only in his company, to be exquisitely happy
were he but in the same room with her--to sink to profoundest melancholy
when he was absent. Oh, the sin of it! In what degree did her guilt differ
from that of the women of the Court, who had each her open secret in some
base intrigue that all the world knew and laughed at? She had been kept
aloof from that libertine crew; but was she any better than they? Was
Fareham, who openly scorned the royal debauchee, was he any better than the
She remembered how he had talked of Lord Sandwich, making excuses for a
perverted love. She had heard him speak of other offenders in the same
strain. He had been ever ready to recognise fatality where a good Catholic
would have perceived only sin.
"Angela, believe me, you are drifting helmless in perilous waters," Denzil
urged, while she stood beside him in mute distress. "Let me be your strong
rock. Only give me the promise of your hand. I can be patient still. I will
give time for love to grow. Grant me but the right to guard you from the
danger of an unholy passion that is always near you in this house."
"You pretend to be his lordship's friend, and you speak slander of him."
"I am his friend. I could find it in my heart to pity him for loving you.
Indeed, it has been in friendship that I have tried to interest him in a
great national question--to wean him from his darling sin. But were you my
wife he should never cross our threshold. The day that made us one should
make you and Fareham strangers. It is for you to choose, Angela, between
two men who love you--one near your own age, free, God-fearing; the other
nearly old enough to be your father, bound by the tie which your Church
deems indissoluble, whose love is insult and pollution, and can but end in
shame and despair. It is for you to choose between honest and dishonest
"There is a nobler choice open to me," she said, more calmly than she had
yet spoken, and with a pale dignity in her countenance that awed him. A
thrill of admiration and fear ran along his nerves as he looked at her. She
seemed transfigured. "There is a higher and better love," she said. "This
is not the first time that I have considered a sure way out of all
my difficulties. I can go back to the convent where, in my dear Aunt
Anastasia, I saw so splendid an example of a holy life hidden from the
"Life buried in a living grave!" cried Denzil, horror-stricken at the idea
of such a sacrifice. "Free-will and reason obscured in a cloud of incense!
All the great uses of a noble life brought down to petty observances and
childish mummeries, prayers and genuflections before waxen relics and
dressed-up madonnas. Oh, my dearest girl, next worst only to the dominion
of sin is the slavery of a false religion. I would have thee free as
air--free and enlightened--released from the trammels of Rome, happy in
thyself and useful to thy fellow-creatures."
"You see, Sir Denzil, even if we loved each other, we could never think
alike," Angela said, with a gentle sadness. "Our minds would always dwell
far apart. Things that are dear and sacred to me are hateful to you."
"If you love me I could win you to my way of thinking," he said.
"You mean that if I loved you I should love you better than I love God?"
"Not so, dear. But you would open your mind to the truth. St. Paul
sanctified union between Christian and pagan, and deemed the unbelieving
wife sanctified by the believing husband. There can be no sin, therefore,
despite my poor mother's violent opinions, in the union of those who
worship the same God, and whose creed differs only in particulars. 'How
knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?' Indeed, love, I
doubt not my power to wean you from the errors of your early education."
"Cannot you see how wide apart we are? Every word you say widens the gulf
betwixt us. Indeed, Sir Denzil, you had best remain my friend. You can be
She turned from him almost impatiently. Young, handsome, of a frank and
generous nature, he yet lacked the gifts that charm women; or at least this
one woman was cold to him. It might be that in his own nature there was a
coldness, a something wanting, the fire we miss in that great poet of the
age, whose verse could rise to themes transcendent, but never burnt with
the white heat of human passion.
Papillon came flying along the terrace, her skirts and waving tresses
spread wide in the wind, a welcome intruder.
"What are you and Sir Denzil doing in the cold? I have news for my dear,
dearest auntie. My lord is in a good humour, and _Philaster_ is to be acted
by the Duke's servants, and her ladyship's footmen are keeping places for
us in the boxes. I have only seen three plays in my life, and they were all
sad ones. I wish _Philaster_ was a comedy. I should like to see _Love in a
Tub_. That must be full of drollery. But his honour likes only grave plays.
Be brisk, auntie! The coach will be at the door directly. Come and put on
your hood. His lordship says we need no masks. I should have loved to wear
a mask. Are you coming to the play, Sir Denzil?"
"I know not if I am bidden, or if there be a place for me."
"Why, you can stand with the fops in the pit, and you can buy us some China
oranges. I heard Lady Sarah tell my mother that the new little actress with
the pretty feet was once an orange-girl, who lived with Lord Buckhurst.
Why did he have an orange-girl to live with him? He must be vastly fond of
oranges. I should love to sell oranges in the pit, if I could be an actress
afterwards. I would rather be an actress than a duchess. Mademoiselle
taught me Chimene's tirades in Corneille's _Cid_. I learn quicker than any
pupil she ever had. Monsieur de Malfort once said I was a born actress,"
pursued Papillon, as they walked to the house.
_Philaster!_ That story of unhappy love--so pure, patient, melancholy,
disinterested. How often Angela had hung over the page, in the solitude of
her own chamber! And to hear the lines spoken to-day, when a tempest of
emotion had been raised in her breast, with Fareham by her side; to meet
his glances at this or that moment of the play, when the devoted girl was
revealing the secret of her passionate heart. Yet never was love freer from
taint of sin, and the end of the play was in no wise tragic. That pure
affection was encouraged and sanctified by the happy bride. Bellario was
not to be banished, but sheltered.
Alas! yes; but this was love unreturned. There was no answering warmth on
Philaster's part, no fire of passion to scathe and destroy; only a gentle
gratitude for the girl's devotion--a brother's, not a lover's regard.
She found Fareham and her sister in the hall, ready to step into the coach.
"I saw the name of your favourite play on the posts as I walked home," he
said; "and as Hyacinth is always teasing me for denying her the play-house,
I thought this was a good opportunity for pleasing you both."
"You would have pleased me more if you had offered me the chance of seeing
a new comedy," his wife retorted, pettishly.
"Ah, dearest, let us not resume an old quarrel. The play-wrights of
Elizabeth's age were poets and gentlemen. The men who write for us are
blackguards and empty-headed fops. We have novelty, which is all most of us
want, a hundred new plays in a year, of which scarce one will be remembered
after the year is out."
"Who wants to remember? The highest merit in a play is that it should be a
reflection of to-day; and who minds if it be stale to-morrow? To hold the
mirror up to nature, doesn't your Shakespeare say? And what more transient
than the image in a glass? A comedy should be like one's hat or one's gown,
the top of the mode to-day, and cast off and forgotten, in a week."
"That is what our fine gentlemen think; who are satisfied if their wit gets
three days' acceptance, and some substantial compliment from the patron to
whom they dedicate their trash."
His lordship's liveries and four grey horses made a stir in Lincoln's Inn
Fields, and startled the crowd at the doors of the New Theatre; and within
the house Lady Fareham and her sister divided the attention of the pit
with their royal highnesses the Duke and Duchess, who no longer amused
or scandalised the audience by those honeymoon coquetries which had
distinguished their earlier appearances in public. Duchess Anne was growing
stout, and fast losing her beauty, and Duke James was imitating his
brother's infidelities, after his own stealthy fashion; so it may be that
Clarendon's daughter was no more happy than her sister-in-law the Queen,
nor than her father the Chancellor, over whom the shadows of royal
disfavour were darkening.
Lady Fareham lolled languidly back in her box, and let all the audience see
her indifference to Fletcher's poetic dialogue. Angela sat motionless, her
hands clasped in her lap, entranced by that romantic story, and the acting
which gave life and reality to that poetic fable, as well it might when the
incomparable Betterton played Philaster. Fareham stood beside his wife,
looking down at the stage, and sometimes, as Angela looked up, their eyes
met in one swift flash of responsive thought; met and glanced away, as if
each knew the peril of such meetings--
"If it be love
To forget all respect of his own friends
In thinking on your face."
Was it by chance that Fareham sighed as those lines were spoken? And
"If, when he goes to rest (which will not be),
'Twixt every prayer he says he names you once."
And again, was it chance that brought that swift, half-angry, questioning
look upon her from those severe eyes in the midst of Philaster's tirade?--
"How heaven is in your eyes, but in your hearts
More hell than hell has; how your tongues, like scorpions,
Both heal and poison; how your thoughts are woven
With thousand changes in one subtle web,
And worn so by you. How that foolish man
That reads the story of a woman's face,
And dies believing it is lost for ever."
It was Angela whose eyes unconsciously sought his when that passage
occurred which had written itself upon her heart long ago at Chilton when
she first read the play--
"Alas, my lord, my life is not a thing
Worthy your noble thoughts; 'tis not a life,
'Tis but a piece of childhood thrown away."
What was her poor life worth--so lonely even in her sister's house--so
desolate when his eyes looked not upon her in kindness? After having lived
for two brief summers and winters in his cherished company, having learnt
to know what a proud, honourable man was like, his disdain of vice, his
indifference to Court favour, his aspirations for liberty; after having
known him, and loved him with silent and secret love, what better could she
do than bury herself within convent walls, and spend the rest of her days
in praying for those she loved? Alas, he had such need that some faithful
soul should soar heavenward in supplication for him who had himself so weak
a hold upon the skies! Alas, to think of him as unbelieving, putting his
trust in the opinions of infidels like Hobbes and Spinoza, rather than
leaning on that Rock of Ages the Church of St. Peter.
If she could not live for him--if it were a sin even to dwell under the
same roof with him--she could at least die for him--die to the world of
pleasure and folly, of beauty and splendour, die to friendship and love;
sink all individuality under the monastic rule; cease to be, except as
a part in a great organisation, an atom acting and acted upon by higher
powers; surrendering every desire and every hope that distinguished her
from the multitude of women vowed to a holy life.
"Never, sir, will I
Marry; it is a thing within my vow."
The voice of the actress sounded silver-clear as Bellario spoke her last
speech, finishing her story of a love which can submit to take the lower
place, and asks but little of fate.
"It is a thing within my vow."
The line repeated itself in Angela's mind as Denzil met them at the door,
and handed her into the coach.
Should she prove of weaker stuff than the sad Eufrasia, and accept a
husband she did not love? This humdrum modern age allowed of no romance.
She could not stain her face with walnut juice, and disguise herself as
a footboy, and live unknown in his service, to wait upon him when he was
weary, to nurse him when he was sick. Such a life she would have deemed
exquisitely happy; but the hard everyday world had no room for such
dreams. In this unromantic age Dion's daughter would be recognised within
twenty-four hours of her putting on male attire. The golden days of poetry
were dead. Una would find no lion to fawn at her feet. She would be mobbed
in the Strand.
"Oh, that it could have been!" thought Angela, as the coach jolted and
rumbled through the narrow ways, and shaved awkward corners with its
ponderous wheels, and got its horses entangled with other noble teams, to
the provocation of much ill-language from postillions, and flunkeys, and
linkmen, for it was dark when they came out of the theatre, and a thick
mist was rising from the river, and flambeaux were flaring up and down the
dim narrow thoroughfares.
"They light the streets better in Paris," complained Hyacinth. "In the Rue
de Touraine we had a lamp to every house."
"I like to see the links moving up and down," said Papillon; "'tis ever so
much prettier than lanterns that stand still--like that one at the corner."
She pointed to a small round lamp that made a bubble of light in an abyss
"Here the lamps stink more than they light," said Hyacinth. "How the coach
rocks--those blockheads will end by upsetting it. I should have been twice
as well in my chair."
Angela sat in her place, lost in thought, and hardly conscious of the
jolting coach, or of Papillon's prattle, who would not be satisfied till
she had dragged her aunt into the conversation.
"Did you not love the play, and would you not love to be a princess like
Arethusa, and to wear such a necklace? Mother's diamonds are not half as
"Pshaw, child, 'twas absolute glass--arrant trumpery."
"But her gown was not trumpery. It was Lady Castlemaine's last birthday
gown. I heard a lady telling her friend about it in the seat next mine.
Lady Castlemaine gave it to the actress; and it cost three hundred
pounds--and Lady Castlemaine is all that there is of the most extravagant,
the lady said, and old Rowley has to pay her debts--(who is old Rowley, and
why does he pay people's debts?)--though she is the most unscrupulous--I
forget the word--in London."
"You see, madam, what a good school the play-house is for your child," said
"I never asked you to take our child there."
"Nay, Hyacinth; but a mother should enter no scene unfit for her daughter's
"Oh, my lord, your opinions are of the Protectorate. You would be better in
New England--tilling your fields reclaimed from the waste."
"Yes, I might be better there, reclaimed from the waste--of London life.
Strange that your talk should hit upon New England. I was thinking of that
New World not an hour ago at the play--thinking what a happy innocent life
a man might lead there, were he but young and free, with one he loved."
"Innocent, yes; happy, no; unless he were a savage or a peasant," Hyacinth
exclaimed disdainfully. "We that have known the grace and beauty of life
cannot go back to the habits of our ancestors, to eat without forks, and
cover our floors with rushes instead of Persian carpets."
"The beauty and grace of life--houses that are whited sepulchres, banquets
where there is no love."
The coach stopped before the tall Italian doorway, and Fareham handed out
his wife and sister in silence; but there was one of the party to whom it
was unnatural to be mute.
Papillon sprang off the coach step into her father's arms.
"Sweetheart, why are you so sad?" she asked. "You look more unhappy than
Philaster when he thought his lady loved him not."
She would not be put off, but hung about him all the length of the
corridor, to the door of his room, where he parted from her with a kiss on
"How your lips burn!" she cried. "I hope you are not sickening for the
plague. I dreamt last night that the contagion had come back; and that our
new glass coach was going about with a bell collecting the dead."
"Thou hadst eaten too much supper, sweet. Such dreams are warnings against
excess of pies and jellies. Go, love; I have business."
"You have always business now. You used to let me stay with you--even when
you was busy," Henriette remonstrated, dejectedly, as the sonorous oak door
closed against her.
Fareham flung himself into his chair in front of the large table, with
its heaped-up books and litter of papers. Straight before him there lay
Milton's pamphlet--a publication of ten years ago; but he had been reading
it only that morning--"The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce."
There were sentences which seemed to him to stand out upon the page, almost
as if written in fire; and to these he recurred again and again, brooding
over and weighing every word. "....Neither can this law be of force to
engage a blameless creature to his own perpetual sorrow, mistaken for his
expected solace, without suffering charity to step in and do a confessed
good work of parting those whom nothing holds together but this of God's
joining, falsely supposed against the express end of his own ordinance....
'It is not good,' said He, 'that man should be alone; I will make him a
helpmeet for him.' From which words, so plain, less cannot be concluded,
nor is by any learned interpreter, than that in God's intention a meet and
happy conversation is the chiefest and noblest end of marriage.... Again,
where the mind is unsatisfied, the solitariness of man, which God had
namely and principally ordered to prevent by marriage, hath no remedy, but
lies in a worse condition than the loneliest single life; for in single
life the absence and remoteness of a helper might inure him to expect his
own comforts out of himself, or to seek with hope; but here the continual
sight of his deluded thoughts, without cure, must needs be to him, if
especially his complexion incline him to melancholy, a daily trouble and
pain of loss, in some degree like that which reprobates feel."
He closed the book, and started up to pace the long, lofty room, full of
shadow, betwixt the light of the fire and that one pair of candles on his
"Reprobate! Yes. Am not I a reprobate, and the worst, plotting against
innocence? New England," he repeated to himself. "How much the name
promises. A new world, a new life, and old fetters struck off. God, if it
could be done! It would hurt no one--no one--except perhaps those children,
who might suffer a brief sorrow--and it would make two lives happy that
must be blighted else. Two lives! Am I so sure of her? Yes, if eyes speak
true. Sure as of my own fond passion. The contagion, quotha! I have
suffered that, sweet, and know its icy sweats and parching heats; but
'tis not so fierce a fever as that devilish disease, the longing for your
Sitting in her own room before supper, a letter was brought to Angela--a
long letter, closely written, in a neat, firm hand she knew very well.
It was from Denzil Warner; a letter full of earnest thought and warm
feeling, in which he pursued the subject of their morning's discourse.
"We were interrupted before I had time to open my heart to you, dearest,"
he wrote; "and at a moment when we had touched on the most delicate
point in our friendship--the difference in our religious education and
observance. Oh, my beloved, let not difference in particulars divide two
hearts that worship the same God, or make a barrier between two minds that
think alike upon essentials. The Christ who died for you is not less my
Saviour because I love not to obtrude the dressed-up image of His earthly
mother between His Godhead and my prayers. In the regeneration of baptism,
in the sanctity of marriage, in the resurrection of the body, and the
life of the world to come, in the reality of sin and the necessity for
repentance, I believe as truly as any Papist living. Let our lives be but
once united, who knows how the future may shape and modify our minds and
our faith? I may be brought to your way of thinking, or you to mine. I will
pledge myself never to be guilty of disrespect to your religion, or to
unkindly urge you to any change in your observances. I am not one of those
who have exchanged one tyranny for another, and who, released from the
dominion of Rome, have become the slave of the Covenant. I have been taught
by one who, himself deeply religious, would have all men free to worship
God by the light of their own conscience; and to my wife, that dearer half
of my soul, I would allow perfect freedom. I suffer from the lack of poetic
phrases with which to embellish the plain reality of my love; but be sure,
Angela, that you may travel far through the world, and receive many a
flowery compliment to your beauty, yet meet none who will love you as
faithfully as I have loved you for this year last past, and as I doubt I
shall love you--happy or unfortunate in my wooing--for all the rest of my
life. Think, dearest, whether it were not wise on your part to accept the
chaste and respectful homage of a suitor who is free to love and cherish
you, and thus to shield yourself from the sinful pursuit of one who offends
Heaven and dishonours you whenever he looks at you with the eyes of a
lover. I would not write harshly of a man whose very sin I pity, and whom
I believe not wholly vile; but for him, as for me, that were a happy day
which should make you my wife, and thus end the madness of unholy hopes. I
would again urge that Lady Fareham desires our union with all a sister's
concern for you, and more than a friend's tenderness to me.
"I beseech your pardon and indulgence for my rough words of this morning.
God forbid that I should impute one unworthy thought to her whose virtues I
honour above all earthly merit. If your heart inclines towards one whom it
were misery for you to love, I know that it must be with an affection pure
and ethereal as the love of the disguised girl in Fletcher's play. But, ah,
dearest angel, you know not the peril in which you walk. Your innocent mind
cannot conceive the audacious height to which unholy love may climb in a
man's fiery nature. You cannot fathom the black depths of such a character
as Fareham--a man as capable of greatness in evil as of distinction in
good. Forget not whose fierce blood runs in those veins. Can you doubt his
audacity in wrong-doing, when you remember that he comes of the same stock
which produced that renegade and tyrant, Thomas Wentworth--a man who would
have waded deep in the blood of a nation to reach his desired goal, all the
history of whose life was expressed by him in one word--'thorough'?
"Do you consider what that word means to a man over whose heart sin has
taken the upper hand? Thorough! How resolute in evil, how undaunted and
without limit in baseness, is he who takes that word for his motto! Oh, my
love, there are dragons and lions about thy innocent footsteps--the dragons
of lust, the lions of presumptuous love. Flee from thy worst enemy,
dearest, to the shelter of a heart which adores thee; lean upon a breast
whose pulses beat for thee with a truth that time cannot change.
"Thine till death,
Angela tore up the letter in anger. How dared he write thus of Lord
Fareham? To impute sinful passions, guilty desires--to enter into another
man's mind, and read the secret cipher of his thoughts and wishes with
an assumed key, which might be false? His letter was a bundle of false
assumptions. What right had he to insist that her brother-in-law cared for
her with more than the affection authorised by affinity? He had no right.
She hated him for his insolent letter. She scorned the protection of his
love. She had her refuge and her shelter in a holier love than his. The
doors of the old home would open to her at a word.
She sat on a low stool in front of the hearth, while the pile of ship
timber on the andirons burnt itself out and turned from red to grey. She
sat looking into the dying fire and recalling the pictures of the past;
the dull grey convent rooms and formal convent garden; the petty rules and
restrictions; the so-frequent functions--low mass and high, benedictions,
vespers--the recurrent sound of the chapel bell. The few dull books,
permitted in the hour of so-called recreation; the sombre grey gown,
which was the only relief from perpetual black; the limitations of
that colourless life. She had been happy with the Ursulines under her
kinswoman's gentle sway. But could she be happy with the present Superior,
whose domineering temper she knew? She had been happy in her ignorance of
the outer world; but could she be happy again in that grey seclusion--she
who had sat at the banquet of life, who had seen the beauty and the variety
of her native land? To be an exile for the rest of her days, in the
hopeless gloom of a Flemish convent, among the heavy faces of Flemish nuns!
In the intensity of introspective thought she had forgotten one who had
forbidden that gloomy seclusion, and to whom it would be as natural for
her to look for protection and refuge as to convent or husband. From her
thoughts to-night the image of her wandering father had been absent. His
appearances in her life had been so rare and so brief, his influence on her
destiny so slight, that she was forgetful of him now in this crisis of her
* * * * *
It was within a week of that evening that the sisters were startled by the
arrival of their father, unannounced, in the dusk of the winter afternoon.
He had come by slow stages from Spain, riding the greater part of the
journey--like Howell, fifty years earlier--attended only by one faithful
soldier-servant, and enduring no small suffering, and running no slight
risk, upon the road.
"The wolves had our provender on more than one occasion," he told them.
"The wonder is they never had us or our hackneys. I left Madrid in July,
not long after the death of my poor friend Fanshawe. Indeed, it was his
friendship and his good lady's unvarying courtesy that took me to the
capital. We had last met at Hampton Court, with the King, shortly before
his Majesty's so ill-advised flight; and we were bosom-friends then. And
so, he being dead of a fever early in the summer, I had no more to do but
to travel slowly homeward, to end my days in my own chimney-corner, and to
claim thy promise, Angela, that thou wouldst keep my house, and comfort my
"Dear father!" Angela murmured, hanging over him as he sat in the
high-backed velvet chair by the fire, while her ladyship's footmen set
a table near him, with wine and provisions for an impromptu meal, Lady
Fareham directing them, and coming between-whiles to embrace her father in
a flutter of spirits, the firelight shining on her flame-coloured velvet
gown and primrose taffety petticoat, her pretty golden curls and sparkling
Sevigne, her ruby necklace and earrings, and her bright restless eyes.
While the elder sister was all movement and agitation, the younger stood
calm and still beside her father's chair, her hands clasped in his, her
thoughtful eyes looking down at him as he talked, stopping now and then in
his story of adventures to eat and drink.
He looked much older than when he surprised her in the Convent garden. His
hair and beard, then iron grey, were now silver white. He wore his own
hair, which was abundant, and a beard cut after the fashion she knew in the
portraits of Henri Quatre. His clothes also were of that style, which lived
now only in the paintings of Vandyke and his school.
"How the girl looks at me!" Sir John said, surprising his daughter's
earnest gaze. "Does she take me for a ghost?"
"Indeed, sir, she may well fancy you have come back from the other world
while you wear that antique suit," said Hyacinth. "I hope your first
business to-morrow will be to replenish your wardrobe by the assistance
of Lord Rochester's tailor. He is a German, and has the best cut for a
justau-corps in all the West End. Fareham is shabby enough to make a wife
ashamed of him; but his clothes are only too plain for his condition. Your
Spanish cloak and steeple hat are fitter for a travelling quack doctor than
for a gentleman of quality, and your doublet and vest might have come out
of the ark."
"If I change them, it will be but to humour your vanity, sweetheart,"
answered her father. "I bought the suit in Paris three years ago, and
I swore I would cast them back upon the snip's hands if he gave me any
new-fangled finery. But a riding-suit that has crossed the Pyrenees and
stood a winter's wear at Montpelier--where I have been living since
October--can scarce do credit to a fine lady's saloon; and thou art finest,
I'll wager, Hyacinth, where all are fine."
"You would not say that if you had seen Lady Castlemaine's rooms. I would
wager that her gold and silver tapestry cost more than the contents of my
"Thou shouldst not envy sin in high places, Hyacinth."
"Envy! I envy a----"
"Nay, love, no bad names! 'Tis a sorry pass England has come to when the
most conspicuous personage at her Court is the King's mistress. I was with
Queen Henrietta at Paris, who received me mighty kindly, and bewailed with
me over the contrast betwixt her never-to-be-forgotten husband and his
sons. They have nothing of their father, she told me, neither in person nor
in mind. 'I know not whence their folly comes to them!' she cried. It would
have been uncivil to remind her that her own father, hero as he was, had
set no saintly example to royal husbands; and that it is possible our
princes take more of their character from their grandfather Henry than from
the martyr Charles. Poor lady, I am told she left London deep in debt,
after squandering her noble income of these latter years, and that she has
sunk in the esteem of the French court by her alliance with Jermyn."
"I can but wonder that she, above all women, should ever cease to be a
"She comes of a light-minded race and nation, Angela; and it is easy to her
to forget; or she would not easily forget that so-adoring husband whose
fortunes she ruined. His most fatal errors came from his subservience to
her. When I saw her in her new splendour at Somerset House, all smiles and
gaiety, with youth and beauty revived in the sunshine of restored fortune,
I could but remember all he was, in dignity and manly affection, proud and
pure as King Arthur in the old romance, and all she cost him by womanish
tyrannies and prejudices, and difficult commands laid upon him at a
juncture of so exceeding difficulty."
The sisters listened in respectful silence. The old cavalier cut a fresh
slice of chine, sighed, and continued his sermon.
"I doubt that while we, the lookers on, remember, they, the actors, forget;
for could the son of such a noble victim wallow in a profligate court,
surrender himself to the devilish necromancies of vicious women and viler
men, if he remembered his father's character, and his father's death? No;
memory must be a blank, and we, who suffered with our royal master, are
fools to prate of ingratitude or neglect, since the son who can forget such
a father may well forget his father's servants and friends. But we will not
talk of public matters in the first hour of our greeting. Nor need I prate
of the King, since I have not come back to England to clap a periwig over
my grey hairs, and play waiter upon Court favour, and wear out the back
of my coat against the tapestry at Whitehall, standing in the rear of the
crowd, to have my toes trampled upon by the sharp heels of Court ladies,
and an elbow in my stomach more often than not. I am come, like Wolsey,
girls, to lay my old bones among you. Art thou ready, Angela? Hast thou
had enough of London, and play-houses, and parks; and wilt thou share thy
father's solitude in Buckinghamshire?"
"With all my heart, sir."
"What! never a sigh for London pleasures? Thou hast the great lady's air
and carriage in that brave blue taffety. The nun I knew three years ago has
vanished. Can you so lightly renounce the splendour of this house, and your
sister's company, to make a prosing old father happy?"
"Indeed, sir, I am ready to go with you."
"How she says that--with what a countenance of woeful resignation! But I
will not make the Manor Moat too severe a prison, dearest. You shall visit
London, and your sister, when you will. There shall be a coach and a team
of stout roadsters to pull it when they are not wanted for the plough. And
the Vale of Aylesbury is but a long day's journey from London, while 'tis
no more than a morning's ride to Chilton."
"I could not bear for her to be long away from me," said Hyacinth. "She is
the only companion I have in the world."
"Except your husband."
"Husbands such as mine are poor company. Fareham has a moody brow, and a
mind stuffed with public matters. He dines with Clarendon one day, and with
Albemarle another; or he goes to Deptford to grumble with Mr. Evelyn; or he
creeps away to some obscure quarter of the town to hob-nob with Milton,
and with Marvel, the member for Hull. I doubt they are all of one mind in
abusing his Majesty, and conspiring against him. If I lose my sister I
shall have no one."
"What, no one; when you have Henriette, who even three years ago had
shrewdness enough to keep an old grandfather amused with her impertinent
"Grandfathers are easily amused by children they see as seldom as you have
seen Papillon. To have her about you all day, with her everlasting chatter,
and questions, and remarks, and opinions (a brat of twelve with opinions),
would soon give you the vapours."
"I am not so subject to vapours as you, child. Let me look at you, now the
candles are lighted."
The footmen had lighted clusters of wax candles on either side the tall
Sir John drew his elder daughter to the light, and scrutinised her face
with a father's privilege of uncompromising survey.
"You paint thick enough, i' conscience' name, though not quite so thick as
the Spanish senoras. They are browner than you, and need a heavier hand
with white and red. But you are haggard under all your red. You are not the
woman I left in '65."
"I am near two years older than the woman you left; and as for paint, there
is not a woman over twenty in London who uses as little red and white as I
"What has become of Fareham to-night?" Sir John asked presently, when
Hyacinth had picked up her favourite spaniel to nurse and fondle, while
Angela had resumed her occupation at an embroidery frame, and a reposeful
air as of a long-established domesticity had fallen upon the scene.
"He is at Chilton. When he is not plotting he rushes off to Oxfordshire
for the hunting and shooting. He loves buglehorns and yelping curs,
and huntsmen's cracked voices, far before the company of ladies or the
conversation of wits."
"A man was never meant to sit in a velvet chair and talk fine. It is all
one for a French Abbe and a few old women in men's clothing to sit round
the room and chop logic with a learned spinster like Mademoiselle Scudery;
but men must live _sub Jove_, unless they are statesmen or clerks. They
must have horses and hounds, gun and spaniel, hawk or rod. I am glad
Fareham loves sport. And as for that talk of conspiring, let me not hear it
from thee, Hyacinth. 'Tis a perilous discourse to but hint at treason;
and your husband is a loyal gentleman who loves, and"--with a wry
"Oh, I was only jesting. But, indeed, a man who so disparages the things
other people love must needs be a rebel at heart. Did you hear of Monsieur
de Malfort while you were at Paris?"
The inquiry was made with that over-acted carelessness which betrays hidden
pain; but the soldier's senses had been blunted by the rough-and-tumble of
an adventurer's life, and he was not on the alert for shades of feeling.
Angela accepted her father's return, with the new duties it imposed upon
her, as if it had been a decree of Heaven. She put aside all consideration
of that refuge which would have meant so complete a renunciation and
farewell. On her knees that night, in the midst of fervent prayers, her
tears streamed fast at the thought that, secure in the shelter of her
father's love, in the peaceful solitude of her native valley, she could
look to a far-off future when she and Fareham might meet with out fear of
sin, when no cloud of passion should darken his brotherly affection for
her; when his heart, now estranged from holy things, would have returned to
the faith of his ancestors, reconciled to God and the Church. She could but
think of him now as a fallen angel--a wanderer who had strayed far from the
only light and guide of human life, and was thus a mark for the tempter.
What lesser power than Satan's could have so turned good to evil; the
friendship of a brother to the base passion which had made so wide a gulf
between them; and which must keep them strangers till he was cured of his
sin? Only to diabolical possession could she ascribe the change that had
come over him since those happy days when she had watched the slow dawn
of health upon his sunken cheeks, when he and she had travelled together
through the rich autumn woods, along the pleasant English roads, and when,
in the leisure of the slow journey, he had poured out his thoughts to her,
the story of his life, his opinions, expatiating in fraternal confidence
upon the things he loved and the things he hated. And at Chilton, she
looked back and remembered his goodness to her, the pains he had taken in
choosing horses for her to ride, their long mornings on the river with
Henriette, their hawking parties, and in all his tender brotherly care of
her. The change in him had come about by almost imperceptible degrees:
but it had been chiefly marked by a fitful temper that had cut her to the
quick; now kind; now barely civil; courting her company to-day; to-morrow
avoiding her, as if there were contagion in her presence. Then, after
the meeting at Millbank, there had come a coldness so icy, a sarcasm so
cutting, that for a long time she had thought he hated as much as he
despised her. She had withered in his contempt. His unkindness had
overshadowed every hour of her life, and the longing to cry out to him
"Indeed, sir, your thoughts wrong me. I am not the wretch you think,"
had been almost too much for her fortitude. She had felt that she must
exculpate herself, even though in so doing she should betray her sister.
But honour, and affection for Hyacinth, had prevailed; and she had bent her
shoulders to the burden of undeserved shame. She had sat silent and abashed
in his presence, like a guilty creature.
Sir John Kirkland spent a week at Fareham House, employed in choosing a
team of horses, suitable alike for the road and the plough, looking
out, among the coachmakers, for a second-hand travelling carriage, and
eventually buying a coach of Lady Fanshawe's, which had been brought from
Madrid with the rest of her very extensive goods and chattels.
One need scarce remark that it was not one of the late Ambassador's state
carriages, his ruby velvet coach, with fringes that cost three hundred
pounds, or his brocade carriage, but a coach that had been built for the
everyday use of his suite.
Sir John also bought a little plain silver, in place of that fine
collection of silver and parcel-gilt which had been so willingly sacrificed
to royal necessities; and though he breathed no sigh over past losses, some
bitter thoughts may have come across his cheerfulness as he heard of the
splendour and superabundance of Lady Castlemaine's plate and jewels, or of
the ring worth six hundred pounds lately presented to a pretty actress.
In a week he was ready for Buckinghamshire; and Angela had her trunks
packed, and had bid good-bye to her London friends, amidst the chatter of
Lady Fareham's visiting-day, and the clear, bell-like clash of delicate
china tea-cups--miniature bowls of egg-shell porcelain, without handles,
and to be held daintily between the tips of high-bred fingers.
There was a chorus of courteous bewailing at the notion of Mrs. Kirkland's
Sir Ralph Masaroon pretended to be in despair.
"Is it not bad enough to have had the coldest winter my youth can remember?
But you must needs take the sun from our spring. Why, the maids of honour
will count for handsome when you are gone. What's that Butler says?--
'The twinkling stars begin to muster,
And glitter with their borrowed lustre.'
But what's to become of me without the sun? I shall have no one to
side-glass in the Ring."
"Indeed, Sir Ralph, I did not know that you ever side-glassed me!"
"What, you have suffered my devotion to pass unperceived? When I have
broken half a dozen coach windows in your service, rattling a glass down
with a vehemence which would have startled a Venus in marble to turn and
recognise an adorer! Round and round the Ring I have driven for hours, on
the chance of a look. Nay, marble is not so coy as froward beauty! And at
the Queen's chapel have I not knelt at the Mass morning after morning, at
the risk of being thought a Papist, for the sake of seeing you at prayers;
and have envied the Romish dog who handed you the aspersoir as you went
out? And you to be unconscious all the time!"
"Nay, 'tis so much happier for me, Sir Ralph, since you have given me a
reserve of gratified vanity that will last me a year in the country, where
I shall see nothing but ploughmen and bird-boys."
"Look out for the scarecrows in Sir John's fields, for the odds are you
will see me some day disguised as one."
"Why disguised?" asked his friend Mr. Penington, who had lately produced a
comedy that had been acted three afternoons at the Duke's Theatre, and one
evening at Court, which may be taken as a prosperous run for a new play.
Lady Sarah Tewkesbury held forth on the pleasures of a country life, and
lamented that family connections and the necessity of standing well with
the Court constrained her to spend the greater part of her existence in
"I am like Milton," she said. "I adore a rural life. To hear the cock--
'From his watchtower in the skies,
When the horse and hound do rise.'
Oh, I love buttercups and daisies above all the Paris finery in the
Exchange; and to steep one's complexion in May-dew, and to sup on a
syllabub or a dish of frumenty--so cheap, too, while it costs a fortune but
to scrape along in London."
"The country is well enough for a month at hay-making, to romp with a bevy
of London beauties in the meadows near Tunbridge Wells, or to dance to
a couple of fiddles on the Common by moonlight," said Mr. Penington;
whereupon all agreed that Tunbridge Wells, Epsom, Doncaster, and Newmarket
were the only country possible to people of intellect.
"I would never go further than Epsom, if I had my will," said Sir Ralph;
"for I see no pleasure in Newmarket for a man who keeps no running-horses,
and has no more interest in the upshot of a race than he might have in
a maggot match on his own dining-table, did he stake high enough on the
"But my sister is not to be buried in Buckinghamshire all the year round,"
explained Hyacinth. "I shall fetch her here half a dozen times in a season;
and her shortest visits must be long enough to take the country freshness
out of her complexion, and save her from becoming a milkmaid."
"Gud, to see her freckled!" cried Penington. "I could as soon imagine
Helen with a hump. That London pallor is the choicest charm in a girl
of quality--a refined sickliness that appeals to the heart of a man of
feeling, an 'if-you-don't-lend-me-your-arm-I-shall-swoon' sort of air. Your
country hoyden, with her roses-and-cream complexion, and open-air manners,
is more shocking than Medusa to a man of taste."
The talk drifted to other topics at the mention of Buckingham, who had but
lately been let out of the Tower, where he and Lord Dorchester had been
committed for scuffling and quarrelling at the Canary Conference.
"Has your ladyship seen the Duke and Lord Dorchester since they came out of
the house of bondage?" asked Lady Sarah. "I think Buckingham was never so
gay and handsome, and takes his imprisonment as the best joke that ever
was, and is as great at Court as ever."
"His Majesty is but too indulgent," said Masaroon, "and encourages the Duke
to be insolent and careless of ceremony. He had the impertinence to show
himself at chapel before he had waited on his Majesty."
"Who was very angry and forbade him the Court," said Penington. "But
Buckingham sent the King one of his foolish, jesting letters, capped with
a rhyme or two; and if you can make Charles Stuart laugh you may pick his
"Or seduce his mistress----"
"Oh, he will forgive much to wit and gaiety. He learnt the knack of taking
life easily, while he led that queer, shifting life in exile. He was a
cosmopolitan and a soldier of fortune before he was a King _de facto;_ and
still wears the loose garments of those easy, beggarly days, when he had
neither money nor care. Be sure he regrets that roving life--Madrid, Paris,
the Hague--and will never love a son as well as little Monmouth, the child
of his youth."
"What would he not give to make that base-born brat Prince of Wales?
Strange that while Lord Ross is trying to make his offspring illegitimate
by Act of Parliament, his master's anxieties should all tend the other
"Don't talk to me of Parliament!" cried Lady Sarah; "the tyranny of the
Rump was nothing to them. Look at the tax upon French wines, which will
make it almost impossible for a lady of small means to entertain her
friends. And an Act for burying us all in woollen, for the benefit of the
English trade in wool."
"But, indeed, Lady Sarah, it is we of the old faith who have most need to
complain," said Lady Fareham, "since these wretches make us pay a double
poll-tax; and all our foreign friends are being driven away for the same
reason--just because the foolish and the ignorant must needs put down the
fire to the Catholics."
"Indeed, your ladyship, the Papists have had an unlucky knack at lighting
fires, as Smithfield and Oxford can testify," said Penington; "and perhaps,
having no more opportunity of roasting martyrs, it may please some of
your creed to burn Protestant houses, with the chance of cooking a few
Protestants inside 'em."
* * * * *
Angela had drawn away from the little knot of fine ladies and finer
gentlemen, and was sitting in the bay window of an ante-room, with
Henriette and the boy, who were sorely dejected at the prospect of losing
her. The best consolation she could offer was to promise that they should
be invited to the Manor Moat as soon as she and her father had settled
themselves comfortably there--if their mother could spare them.
Henriette laughed outright at this final clause.
"Spare us!" she cried. "Does she ever want us? I don't think she knows when
we are in the room, unless we tread upon her gown, when she screams out
'Little viper!' and hits us with her fan."
"The lightest touch, Papillon; not so hard as you strike your favourite
"Oh, she doesn't hurt me; but the disrespect of it! Her only daughter, and
nearly as high as she is!"
"You are an ungrateful puss to complain, when her ladyship is so kind as to
let you be here to see all her fine company."
"I am sick of her company, almost always the same, and always talking about
the same things. The King, and the Duke, and the General, and the navy;
or Lady Castlemaine's jewels, or the last new head from Paris, or her
ladyship's Flanders lace. It is all as dull as ditch-water now Monsieur de
Malfort is gone. He was always pleasant, and he let me play on his guitar,
though he swore it excruciated him. And he taught me the new Versailles
coranto. There's no pleasure for any one since he fell ill and left
"You shall come to the Manor. It will be a change, even though you hate the
country and love London."
"I have left off loving London. I have had too much of it. If his lordship
let us go to the play-house often it would be different. Oh, how I
loved Philaster--and that exquisite page! Do you think I could act that
character, auntie, if his lordship's tailor made me such a dress?"
"I think thou hast impudence for anything, dearest."
"I would rather act that page than Pauline in _Polyeucte_, though
Mademoiselle swears I speak her tirades nearly as well as an actress she
once saw at the Marais, who was too old and fat for the character. How I
should love to be an actress, and to play tragedy and comedy, and
make people cry and laugh! Indeed, I would rather be anything than a
lady--unless I could be exactly like Lady Castlemaine."
"Ah, Heaven forbid!"
"But why not? I heard Sir Ralph tell mother that, let her behave as badly
as she may, she will always be atop of the tree, and that the young sparks
at the Chapel Royal hardly look at their prayer-books for gazing at her,
and that the King----"
"Ah, sweetheart, I want to hear no more of her!"
"Why, don't you like her? I thought you did not know her. She never comes
"Are there any staghounds in the Vale of Aylesbury?" asked the boy, who had
been looking out of the window, watching the boats go by, unheeding his
"I know not, love; but there shall be dogs enough for you to play with,
I'll warrant, and a pony for you to ride. Grandfather shall get them for
Sir John was fond of Henriette, whom he looked upon as a marvel of
precocious brightness; but the boy was his favourite, whom he loved with an
old man's half-melancholy affection for the creature which is to live and
act a part in the world when he, the greybeard, shall be dust.
AT THE MANOR MOAT.
Solid, grave, and sober, grey with a quarter of a century's neglect, the
Manor House, in the valley below Brill, differed in every detail from the
historical Chilton Abbey. It was a moated manor house, the typical house of
the typical English squire; an E-shaped house, with a capacious roof that
lodged all the household servants, and clustered chimney-stacks that
accommodated a great company of swallows. It had been built in the reign
of Henry the Seventh, and was coeval with its distinguished neighbour, the
house of the Verneys, at Middle Claydon, and it had never served any other
purpose than to shelter Englishmen of good repute in the land. Souvenirs
of Bosworth field--a pair of huge jack-boots, a two-handed sword, and a
battered helmet--hung over the chimney-piece in the low-ceiled hall; but
the end of the civil war was but a memory when the Manor House was built.
After Bosworth a slumberous peace had fallen on the land, and in the
stillness of this secluded valley, sheltered from every bleak wind by
surrounding hills and woods, the gardens of the Manor Moat had grown into
a settled beauty that made the chief attraction of a country seat which
boasted so little of architectural dignity, or of expensive fantasy in
moulded brick and carved stone. Plain, sombre, with brick walls and heavy
stone mullions to low-browed windows, the Manor House stood in the midst
of gardens such as the modern millionaire may long for, but which only the
grey old gardener Time can create.
There was more than a mile of yew hedge, eight feet high, and three
feet broad, walling in flower garden and physic garden, the latter the
particular care of the house-mothers of previous generations, the former a
paradise of those old flowers which bloom and breathe sweet odours in the
pages of Shakespeare, and jewel the verse of Milton. The fritillary here
opened its dusky spotted petals to drink the dews of May; and here, against
a wall of darkest green, daffodils bloomed unruffled by March winds.
Verily a garden of gardens; but when Angela came there in the chill
February there were no flowers to welcome her, only the long, straight
walks beside those walls of yew, and the dark shining waters of the moat
and the fish-pond, reflecting the winter sun; and over all the scene a
quiet as of the grave.
A little colony of old servants had been left in the house, which had
escaped confiscation, albeit the property of a notorious Malignant, perhaps
chiefly on account of its insignificance, the bulk of the estate having
been sold by Sir John in '44, when the king's condition was waxing
desperate, and money was worth twice its value to those who clung to hope,
and were ready to sacrifice their last jacobus in the royal cause. The poor
little property--shrunk to a home-farm of ninety acres, a humble homestead,
and the Manor House--may have been thought hardly worth selling; or Sir
John's rights may have been respected out of regard for his son-in-law,
who, on the maternal side, had kindred in high places under the
Commonwealth, a fact of which Hyacinth occasionally reminded her husband,
telling him that he was by hereditary instinct a rebel and a king-slayer.
The farm had been taken to by Sir John's steward, a man who in politics was
of the same easy temper as the Vicar of Bray in religion, and was a staunch
Cromwellian so long as Oliver or Richard sat at Whitehall, or would have
tossed up his cap and cheered for Monk, as Captain-General of Great
Britain, had he been called upon to till his fields and rear his stock
under a military despotism. It mattered little to any man living at ease in
a fat Buckinghamshire valley what King or Commonwealth ruled in London, so
long as there was a ready market at Aylesbury or Thame for all the farm
could produce, and civil war planted neither drake nor culverin on Brill
The old servants had vegetated as best they might in the old house, their
wages of the scantiest; but to live and die within familiar walls was
better than to fare through a world which had no need of them. The younger
members of the household had scattered, and found new homes; but the
grey-haired cook was still in her kitchen; the old butler still wept over
his pantry, where a dozen or so of spoons, and one battered tankard of
Heriot's make, were all that remained of that store of gold and silver
which had been his pride forty years ago, when Charles was bringing home
his fair French bride, and old Thames at London was alight with fire-works
and torches, and alive with music and singing, as the city welcomed its
young Queen, and when Reuben Holden was a lad in the pantry, learning to
polish a salver or a goblet, and sorely hectored by his uncle the butler.
Reuben, and Marjory, the old cook, famous in her day as any _cordon-bleu_,
were the sole representatives of the once respectable household; but a
couple of stout wenches had been hired from the cluster of labourers'
hovels that called itself a village; and these had been made to drudge as
they had never drudged before in the few days of warning which prepared
Reuben for his master's return.
Fires had been lighted in rooms where mould and mildew had long prevailed;
wainscots had been scrubbed and polished till the whole house reeked
of bees-wax and turpentine, to a degree that almost overpowered those
pervading odours of damp and dry rot, which can curiously exist together.
The old furniture had been made as bright as faded fabrics and worm-eaten
wood could be made by labour; and the leaping light of blazing logs,
reflected on the black oak panelling, gave a transient air of cheerfulness
to the spacious dining-parlour where Sir John and his daughter took their
first meal in the old home. And if to Angela's eye, accustomed to the
Italian loftiness of the noble mansions on the Thames, the broad oak
crossbeams seemed coming down upon her head, there was at least an air of
homely snugness in the low darkly coloured room.
On that first evening there had been much to interest and engage her. She
had the old house to explore, and dim childish memories to recall. Here was
the room where her mother died, the room in which she herself had first
seen the light--perhaps not until a month or so after her birth, since
the seventeenth-century baby was not flung open-eyed into her birthday
sunshine, but was swaddled and muffled in a dismal apprenticeship to life.
The chamber had been hung with "blacks" for a twelvemonth, Reuben told her,
as he escorted her over the house, and unlocked the doors of disused rooms.
The tall bedstead with its red and yellow stamped velvet curtains and
carved ebony posts looked like an Indian temple. One might expect to
see Buddha squatting on the embroidered counterpane--the work of half a
lifetime. When the curtains were drawn back, a huge moth flew out of the
darkness, and spun and wheeled round the room with an awful humming noise,
and to the superstitious mind might have suggested a human soul embodied in
this phantasmal greyness, with power of sound in such excess of its bulk.
"Sir John never used the room after her ladyship's death," Reuben
explained, "though 'tis the best bed-chamber. He has always slept in the
blue room, which is at the furthest end of the gallery from the room that
has been prepared for madam. We call that the garden room, and it is mighty
pretty in summer."
In summer! How far it seemed to summer-time in Angela's thoughts! What a
long gulf of nothingness to be bridged over, what a dull level plain to
cross, before June and the roses could come round again, bringing with them
the memory of last summer; and the days she had lived under the same roof
with Fareham, and the evenings when they had sat in the same room, or
loitered on the terrace, pausing now and then beside an Italian vase of
gaudy flowers to look at this or that, or to watch the mob on the river;
and those rare golden days, like that at Sayes Court, which she had spent
in some excursion with Fareham and Henriette.
"I hope madam likes the chamber we have prepared for her?" the old man
said, as she stood dreaming.
"Yes, my good friend, it is very comfortable. My woman complained of the
smoky chimney in her chamber; but no doubt we shall mend that by-and-by."
"It would be strange if a gentlewoman's servant found not something to
grumble about," said Reuben; "they have ever less work to do than any one
else in the house, and ever make more trouble than their mistresses. I'll
settle the hussy, with madam's leave."
"Nay, pray, Mr. Reuben, no harshness. She is a willing, kind-hearted girl,
and we shall find plenty of work for her in this big house where there are
so few servants."
"Oh, there's work enough for sure, if she'll do it, and is no fine city
madam that will scream at sight of a mouse, belike."
"She is a girl I had out of Oxfordshire."
"Oh, if she comes out of Oxfordshire, from his lordship's estate, I dare
swear she is a good girl. I hate your London trash; and I think the great
fire would have been a blessing in disguise if it had swept away most of
"Oh, sir, if a Romanist were to say as much as that!" said Angela,
"Oh, madam, I am not one of they fools that say because half London was
burnt the Papishes must have set it on fire. What good would the burning of
it do 'em, poor souls? And now they are to pay double taxes, as if it was
a sure thing their faggots kindled the blaze. I know how kind and sweet a
soul a Papish may be, though she do worship idols; for I had the honour to
serve your ladyship's mother from the hour she first entered this house
till the day I smuggled the French priest by the back stairs to carry her
the holy oils. Ah! she was a noble and lovely lady. Madam's eyes are of her
colour; and, indeed, madam favours her mother more than my Lady Fareham
"Have you seen Lady Fareham of late years?"
"Ay, madam, she came here in her coach-and-six the summer before the
pestilence, with her two beautiful children, and a party of ladies and
gentlemen. They rode here from his Grace of Buckingham's new mansion by
the Thames--Clefden, I think they call it; and they do say his Grace do so
lavish and squander money in the building of it, that belike he will be
ruined and dead before his palace be finished. There were three coaches
full, with servants and what not. And they brought wine, and capons ready
dressed, and confectionery, and I helped to serve a collation for them in
the garden. And after they had feasted merrily, with a vast quantity of
sparkling French wine, they all rushed through the house like madcaps,
laughing and chattering, regular French magpies, for there was more of 'em
French than English, her ladyship leading them, till she comes to the door
of this room, and finds it locked, and she begins to thump upon the panels
like a spoilt child, and calls, 'Reuben, Reuben, what is your mystery? Sure
this must be the ghost-chamber! Open, open, instantly.' And I answered her
quietly, ''Tis the chamber where that sweet angel, your ladyship's mother,
lay in state, and it has never been opened to strangers since she died.'
And all in the midst of her mirth, the dear young lady burst out weeping,
and cried, 'My sweet, sweet mother! I remember the last smile she gave me
as if it was yesterday.' And then she dropped on her knees and crossed
herself, and whispered a prayer, with her face close against the door;
and I knew that she was praying for her lady-mother, as the way of your
religion is, madam, to pray for the dead; and sure, though it is a simple
thing, it can do no harm; and to my thinking, when all the foolishness is
taken out of religion the warmth and the comfort seem to go too; for I know
I never used to feel a bit more comfortable after a two hours' sermon, when
I was an Anabaptist."
"Are you not an Anabaptist now, Reuben?"
"Lord forbid, madam! I have been a member of the Church of England ever
since his Majesty's restoration brought the Vicar to his own again, and
gave us back Christmas Day, and the organ, and the singing-boys."
Angela's life at the Manor was so colourless that the first blossoming of a
familiar flower was an event to note and to remember. Life within convent
walls would have been scarcely more tranquil or more monotonous. Sir John
rode with his hounds three or four times a week, or was about the fields
superintending the farming operations, walking beside the ploughman as he
drove his furrow, or watching the scattering of the seed. Or he was in
the narrow woodlands which still belonged to him, and Angela, taking her
solitary walk at the close of day, heard his axe ringing through the wintry
It was a peaceful, and should have been a pleasant, life, for father and
for daughter. Angela told herself that God had been very good to her in
providing this safe haven from tempestuous seas, this quiet little world,
where the pulses of passion beat not; where existence was like a sleep, a
gradual drifting away of days and weeks, marked only by the changing note
of birds, the deepening umber on the birch, the purpling of beech buds, and
the starry celandine shining out of grassy banks that had so lately been
obliterated under the drifted snow.
"I ought to be happy," she said to herself of a morning, when she rose from
her knees, and stood looking across the garden to the grassy hills beyond,
while the beads of her rosary slipped through her languid fingers--"I ought
to be happy."
And then she turned from the sunny window with a sigh, and went down the
dark, echoing staircase to the breakfast parlour, where her own little
silver chocolate-pot looked ridiculously small beside Sir John's quart
tankard, and where the crisp, golden rolls, baked in the French fashion
by the maid from Chilton, who had been taught by Lord Fareham's _chef_,
contrasted with the chine of beef and huge farmhouse loaf that accompanied
the knight's old October.
After all his Continental wanderings Sir John had come back to substantial
English fare with an unabated relish; and Angela had to sit down, day after
day, to a huge joint and an overloaded dish of poultry, and to reassure her
father when he expressed uneasiness because she ate so little.
"Women do not want much food, sir. Martha's rolls, and our honey, and the
conserves old Marjory makes so well, are better for me than the meat which
suits your heartier appetite."
"Faith, child, if I played no stouter a part at table than you do, I should
soon be fit to play living skeleton at Aylesbury Fair. And I dubitate as to
your diet-loaves and confectionery suiting you better than a slice of chine
or sirloin, for you have a pale cheek and a pensive eye that smite me to
the heart. Indeed, I begin to question if I was kind to take you from all
the pleasures of the town to be mewed up here with a rusty old soldier."
"Indeed, sir, I could be happier nowhere than here. I have had enough of
London pleasures; and I was meditating upon returning to the convent, when
you came to put an end to all my perplexities; and, sir, I think God sent
you to me when I most needed a father's love."
She went to him and knelt by his chair, hiding her tearful eyes against the
cushioned arm. But, though he could not see her face, he heard the break in
her voice, and he bent down and lifted her drooping head on his breast, and
kissed the soft brown hair, and embraced her very tenderly.
"Sweetheart, thou hast all a father's love, and it is happiness to me to
have thee here; but old as I am, and with so little cunning to read a
maiden's heart, I can read clear enough to know thou art not happy.
Whisper, dearest. Is it a sweetheart who sighs for thy favours far off, and
will not beard this old lion in his den? My gentle Angela would make no ill
choice. Fear not to trust me, my heart. I will love whom you love, favour
whom you favour. I am no tyrant, that my sweet daughter should grow pale
with keeping secrets from me."
"Dear father, you are all goodness. No, there is no one--no one! I am happy
with you. I have no one in the world but you, and, in a so much lesser
degree of love, my sister and her children--"
"And Fareham. He should be to you as a brother. He is of a black
melancholic humour, and not a man whom women love; but he has a heart of
gold, and must regard you with grateful affection for your goodness to him
when he was sick. Hyacinth is never weary of expatiating upon your devotion
in that perilous time."
"She is foolish to talk of services I would have given as willingly to a
sick beggar," Angela answered, impatiently.
Her face was still hidden against her father's breast; but she lifted her
head presently, and the pale calmness of her countenance reassured him.
"Well, it is uncommon strange," he said, "if one so fair has no sweetheart
among all the sparks of Whitehall."
"Lord Fareham hates Whitehall. We have only attended there at great
festivals, when my sister's absence would have been a slight upon her
Majesty and the Duchess."
"But my star, though seldom shining there, should have drawn some
satellites to her orbit. You see, dearest, I can catch the note of Court
flattery. Nay, I will press no questions. My girl shall choose her own
partner; provided the man is honest and a loyal servant of the King. Her
old father shall set no stumbling-block in the high-road to her happiness.
What right has one who is almost a pauper to stipulate for a wealthy
PATIENT, NOT PASSIONATE.
The quiet days went on, and the old Cavalier settled down into a tranquil
happiness, which comforted his daughter with the feeling of duty
prosperously fulfilled. To make this dear old man happy, to be his
companion and friend, to share in his rides and rambles, and of an evening
to play the games he loved on the old shovel-board in the hall, or an
old-fashioned game at cards, or backgammon beside the fire in the panelled
parlour, reconciled her to the melancholy of an existence from which hope
had vanished like a light extinguished. It seemed to her as if she had
dropped back into the old life with her great-aunt. The Manor House was
just a little gayer than the Flemish Convent--for the voices and footsteps
of the few inhabitants had a freer sound, which made the few seem more
populous than the many. And then there were the dogs. What a powerful
factor in home life those four-footed friends were! Out-of-doors a stone
barn had been turned into a kennel for five couple of foxhounds; indoors a
couple of setters, sent by a friend over sea from Waterford, had insinuated
themselves into the parlour, where they established themselves as household
favourites, to the damage of those higher hereditary qualities which fitted
them for distinction with the guns. Indeed, the old Knight was too fond of
his fireside companions to care very much if he missed a bird now and then
because Cataline was over-fed or Caesar disobedient. They stood sentinel on
each side of his chair at dinner, like supporters to a coat-of-arms. Angela
had her own particular favourite in a King Charles's spaniel. It was the
very dog which had first greeted her in the silence of the plague-stricken
house. She had chosen this one from the canine troop when her sister
offered her the gift of a dog at parting, though Hyacinth had urged her to
take something younger than this, which was over five years old.
"He will die just when you love him best," she said.
"Nay; but such partings must come. I love this one because he was with me
in fear and sadness. He used to cling to me, and look up and lick my face,
as if he were telling me to hope, when my brother seemed marked for death."
"Poor Fareham! Did you desire every dog in the house--and my spaniels are
of the same breed as the King's, and worth fifty pound apiece--you have
a right to take them. But, indeed, I would rather you chose a younger
dog--and with a shorter nose; but, of course, if you like this one
Angela held by her first choice, and Ganymede was the companion of all her
hours, walked and lived with her, and slept on a satin cushion at the foot
of her spacious four-post bed, and fretted and whined if she left him shut
in an empty room for half an hour; yet with all his refinements, and his
air of being as dainty a gentleman as any spark of quality, he had a gross
passion for the kitchen, and after nibbling sweet cakes delicately out
of his mistress's taper fingers, he would waddle through a labyrinth of
passages, and find his way to the hog-tub, there to wallow in slush and
broken victuals, till he all but drowned himself in a flood of pot-liquor.
It was hard to reconcile so much beauty and grace, such eloquent eyes and
satin coat, with tastes and desires so vulgar; and Angela sighed over him
when a scullion brought him to her, greasy and penitent, to crouch at her
feet, and deprecate her disgust with an abject tail.
Oh, tranquil, duteous life, how fair it might have seemed, as spring
advanced, and the garden smiled with the promise of summer, were it not for
that aching sense of loss, the some one missing, whose absence made all
things grey and cold!
Yes, she knew now, fully realising as she had never done before, how long
and how utterly her life had been influenced by an affection which even to
contemplate was mortal sin. Yet to extinguish memory was not within her
power. She looked back and remembered how Fareham's protecting love had
enfolded her with its gentle warmth, in those happy days at Chilton; how
all she knew of poetry and the drama, of ethics and philosophy, had been
learnt from him. She recalled his evident delight in opening the rich
treasures of a mind which he had never ceased to cultivate, even amidst the
vicissitudes of a soldier's life, in making her familiar with the writers
he loved, and teaching her to estimate, and to discuss them. And in
all their talk together he had been for the most part careful to avoid
disparagement of the religion in which she believed--so that it was only
some chance revelation of the infidel's narrow outlook that reminded her of
Yes, his love had been round her like an atmosphere; and she had been
exquisitely happy while that unquestioning affection was hers. On her part
there had been neither doubt nor fear. It seemed the most natural thing in
the world that he should be fond of her and she of him. Affinity had made
them brother and sister; and then they had been together in sickness and in
peril of death. It might be true, as he himself had affirmed, that her
so happy arrival had saved his life; since just those hours between the
departure of his attendants and the physician's evening visit may have been
the crisis of his disease.
Well, it was past--the exquisite bliss, the unconscious sin, the
confidence, the danger. All had vanished into the grave of irrecoverable
She had heard nothing from Denzil since she left London, nor had she
acknowledged his letter. Her silence had doubtless angered him, and all
was at an end between them, and this was what she wished. Hyacinth and her
children were at Chilton, whence came letters of complaining against the
dulness of the country, where his lordship hunted four times a week, and
spent all the rest of his time in his library, appearing only "at our
stupid heavy meals; and that not always, since on his hunting days he is
far afield when I have to sit down to the intolerable two-o'clock dinner,
and make a pretence of eating--as if anybody with more intellectuals than
a sheep could dine; or as if appetite came by staring at green fields! You
remember how in London supper was the only meal I ever cared for. There
is some grace in a repast that comes after conversation and music, or the
theatre, or a round of visits--a table dazzling with lights, and men and
women ready to amuse, and be amused. But to sit down in broad daylight,
when one has scarce swallowed one's morning chocolate, and face a
sweltering sirloin, or open a smoking veal pie! Indeed, dearest, our whole
method of feeding smacks of a vulgar brutishness, more appropriate to a
company of Topinambous than to persons of quality. Why, oh, why must these
reeking hecatombs load our tables, when they might as easily be kept out of
sight upon a buffet? The spectacle of huge mountains of meat, the steam and
odour of rank boiled and roast under one's very nostrils, change appetite
to nausea, and would induce a delicate person to rise in disgust and fly
from the dining-room. Mais, je ne fais que divaguer; and almost forget what
it was I was so earnest to tell thee when I began my letter.
"Sir Denzil Warner has been over here, his ostensible motive a civil
inquiry after my health; but I could see that his actual purpose was to
hear of you. I told him how happily your simple soul has accommodated
itself to an almost conventual seclusion, and a very inferior style of
living--whereupon he smiled his rapture, and praised you to the skies.
'Would that she could accommodate herself to my house as easily,' he said;
'she should have every indulgence that an adoring husband could yield her.'
And then he said much more, but as lovers always sing the same repetitive
song, and have no more strings to their lyre than the ancients had before
Mercury expanded it, I confess to not listening over carefully, and will
leave you to imagine the eloquence of a manly and honourable love. Ah,
sweetheart! you do wrong to reject him. Thou hast a quiet soothing
prettiness of thine own, but art no blazing star of beauty, like the
Stewart, to bring a King to thy feet--he would have married her if poor
Catherine had not disappointed him by her recovery--and to take a Duke as
_pis aller_. Believe me, love, it were wise of you to become Lady Warner,
with an unmortgaged estate, and a husband who, in these Republican times,
may rise to distinction. He is your only earnest admirer; and a love so
steadfast, backed by a fortune so respectable, should not be discarded
Over all these latter passages in her sister's letter Angela's eye ran
with a scornful carelessness. Her womanly pride revolted at such petty
schooling--that she should be bidden to accept this young man gratefully,
because he was her only suitor. No one else had ever cared for her pale
insignificance. She looked at her clouded image in the oblong glass that
hung on the panel above her secretaire, and whose reflection made any
idea of her own looks rather speculative than precise. It showed her a
thoughtful face, too pale for beauty; yet she could but note the harmony of
lines which recalled that Venetian type familiar to her eye in the Titians
and Tintorets at Fareham House.
"I doubt I am good-looking enough for any one to be satisfied with the
outward semblance who valued the soul within," she thought, as she turned
from the glass with a mournful sigh.
It was not of Denzil she was thinking, but of that other who in slow
contemplative days in the library where he had taught her what books
she ought to love, and where she might never more enter, must naturally
sometimes remember her, and cast some backward thoughts to the hours they
had spent together.
Hyacinth's letter of matronly counsel was but a week old when Sir
John surprised his daughter one morning, as they sat at table, by the
announcement of a visitor to stay in the house.
"You will order the west room to be got ready, Angela, and bid Marjory Cook
serve us some of her savourest dishes while Sir Denzil stays here."
"Yes, ma mie, Sir Denzil! Ventregris, the girl stares as if I had said Sir
Bevis of Southampton, or Sir Guy of Warwick! I knew this young gentleman's
father before the troubles--an honest man, though he took the wrong side He
paid for his perversity with his life; so we'll say requiescat. The young
man is a fine young man, whom I would fain have something nearer to me than
he is. So at a hint from your sister I have asked him to bring his fishing
tackle and whip our streams for a May trout or two. He may catch a finer
fish than trout, perhaps, while he is a-fishing; if you will be his guide
through the meadows."
"Father, how could you----"
"Ah! thou art a sly one, fair mistress. Who was it told me there was no
one? 'No one, dear father, and indeed, sir, I was thinking of the convent
when you came to London,' while here was as handsome a spark as one would
meet in a day's march, sighing and dying for you."
"Father, I do protest to you----" she began, with a pale distressed look
that vouched for her earnestness; but the Knight had his face in the
tankard, and set it down only to pursue his own train of thought.
"If it had not have been for that little bird at Chilton you might have
hoodwinked me as blind as ever gerfalcon was hooded. Well, the young man
will be here before evening. I would not force your inclinations, but it is
the dearest desire of my heart to see you happily married before I blow out
the candle, and bid my last good night. And a man of honour, handsome and
of handsomest fortune, is not to be slighted."
Angela's spirit rose against this recurrence of her sister's sermon.
"If Sir Denzil is coming to this house as my suitor, I will go to Louvain
without an hour's delay that I can help," she said resolutely.
"Why, what a vixen! Nay, dearest, there is no need for that angry flush.
The young man is too courteous to plague you with unwelcome civilities.
I saw him in London at the tennis court, and was friendly to him for his
father's memory, knowing nothing of his desire to be my son-in-law. He is a
fine player at that royal game, and a fine man. He comes here this evening
as my friend; and if you please to treat him disdainfully, I cannot help
it. But, indeed, I wonder as much as your sister why you should not
reciprocate this gentleman's love."
"When you were young, father, did you love the first comer; only because
she was handsome and civil?"