Part 7 out of 9
"No, child; I had seen many handsome women before I met your mother. She
came over in '35 with the Marquise, who had been lady of honour to Queen
Marie before the Princess Henriette married our King, and Queen Henriette
was fond of her, and invited her to come to London, and she divided her
life between the two countries till the troubles, when she was one of the
first to scamper off, as you know. My wife was little more than a child
when I saw her at Court, hiding behind her mother's large sleeves. I had
seen handsomer women; but she was the first whose face went straight to
my heart. And it has dwelt there ever since," he concluded, with a sudden
break in his voice.
"Then you can comprehend, dear sir, that a man may be honourable, and
courteous, and handsome, and yet not win a woman's love."
"Ah, it is not the man; it is love that should win, sweetheart. Love is
worthy of love. When that is the true coin it should buy its reward. Indeed
I have rarely seen it otherwise. Love begets love. Louise de la Valliere is
not the handsomest woman at the French Court. Her complexion has suffered
from small-pox, and she has a defective gait; but the King discovered a so
fond and romantic attachment to his person, a love ashamed of loving, the
very poetry of affection; and that discovery made him her slave. The Court
beauties--sultanas splendid as Vashti--look on in angry wonder. Louise is
adored because she began by adoring. Mind, I do not praise or excuse her,
for 'tis a mortal sin to love a married man, and steal him from his wife.
Foolish child, how your cheek crimsons! I do wrong to shock your innocence
with my babble of a King's mistress."
Denzil arrived at sunset, on horseback, with a mounted servant in
attendance, carrying his saddle-bags and fishing tackle. It was but a short
day's ride from Oxford. Fareham's rides with the hounds must have brought
him sometimes within a few miles of the Manor Moat Hyacinth and her
children might have ridden over in their coach; and indeed she had promised
her sister a visit in more than one of her letters. But there had been
always something to postpone the expedition--company at home, or bad
weather, or a fit of the vapours--so that the sisters had been as much
asunder as if the elder had been in Yorkshire or Northumberland.
Denzil brought news of the household at Chilton. Lady Fareham was as
charming as ever, and though she had complained very often of bad health,
she had been so lively and active whenever the whim took her, riding with
hawk and hound, visiting about the neighbourhood, driving into Oxford, that
Denzil was of opinion her ailments were of the spirits only, a kind of
rustic malady to which most fine ladies were subject, the nostalgia of
paving-stones and oil lamps. Henriette--she now insisted upon discarding
her nick-name--was less volatile than in London, and missed her aunt
sorely, and quarrelled with mademoiselle, who was painfully strict upon all
points of speech and manners. George's days of unalloyed idleness were also
ended, for the Roman Catholic priest was now a resident in the house as
the little boy's tutor, besides teaching 'Henriette the rudiments, and
instructing her in her mother's religion.
Denzil told them even of the guests he had met at the Abbey; but of the
master of the house his lips spoke not, till Sir John questioned him.
"And Fareham? Has he that same air of not belonging to the family which I
remarked of him in London?"
"His lordship has ever an air of being aloof from everybody," Denzil
answered gravely. "He is solitary even in his sports, and his indoor life
is mostly buried in a book."
"Ah, those books, they will be the ruin of nations! As books multiply,
great actions will grow less. Life's golden hours will be wasted in
dreaming over the fancies of dead men; and the world will be over-full of
brooding philosophers like Descartes, or pamphleteers like your friend Mr.
"Nay, sir, the world is richer for such a man as John Milton, who has
composed the grandest poem in our language--an epic on a scale and subject
as sublime as the Divine Comedy of Dante."
"I never saw Mr. Dante's comedy acted, and confess myself ignorant of its
"Comedy, sir, with Dante, is but a name. The Italian poem is an epic, and
not a play. Mr. Milton's poem will be given to the world shortly, though,
alas! he will reap little substantial reward for the intellectual labour
of years. Poetry is not a marketable commodity in England, save when it
flatters a royal patron, or takes the vulgarer form of a stage-play. But
this poem of Mr. Milton's has been the solace of his darkened life. You
have heard, perhaps, of his blindness?"
"Yes, he had to forego his office as Latin Secretary to that villain. To my
mind the decay of sight was a judgment upon him for having written against
his murdered King, even to the denial of his Majesty's own account of his
sufferings. But I confess that even if the man had been a loyal subject,
I have little admiration for that class; scribblers and pamphleteers,
brooders over books, crouchers in the chimney-corner, who have never
trailed a pike or slept under the open sky. And seeing this vast increase
of book-learning, and the arising of such men as Hobbes, to question our
religion--and Milton to assail monarchy--I can but believe those who
say that this old England has taken the downward bent; that, as we are
dwindling in stature, so we are decaying in courage and capacity for
Denzil listened respectfully to the old man's disquisitions over his
morning drink; while Reuben stood at the sideboard carving a ham or a
round of powdered beef; and while Angela sipped her chocolate out of the
porcelain cup which Hyacinth had bought for her at the Middle Exchange,
where curiosities from China and the last inventions from Paris were always
to be had before they were seen anywhere else. Nothing could be more
reverential than the young man's bearing to his host, while his quiet
friendliness set Angela at her ease, and made her think that he had
abandoned his suit, and henceforward aspired only to such a tranquil
friendship as they had enjoyed at Chilton before any word of love had been
Apart from the question of love and marriage, his presence was in no manner
displeasing to her; indeed, the long days in that sequestered valley lost
something of their grey monotony now that she had a companion in all her
intellectual occupations. Fondly as she loved her father, she had not been
able to hide from herself the narrowness of his education and the blind
prejudice which governed his ideas upon almost every subject, from politics
to natural history. Of the books which make the greater part of a solitary
life she could never talk to him; and it was here that she had so sorely
missed the counsellor and friend, who had taught her to love and to
comprehend the great poets of the past--Homer and Virgil, Dante and
Tasso, and the deep melancholy humour of Cervantes, and, most of all, the
inexhaustible riches of the Elizabethans.
Denzil was of a temper as thoughtful, but his studies had taken a different
direction. He was not even by taste or apprehension a poet. Had he been
called upon to criticise his tutor's compositions, he might, like Johnson,
have objected to the metaphoric turns of Lycidas, and have missed the
melody of lines as musical as the nightingale. In that great poem of which
he had been privileged to transcribe many of the finest passages from the
lips of the poet, he admired rather the heroic patience of the blind
author than the splendour of the verse. He was more impressed by the
schoolmaster's learning than by that God-given genius which lifted that one
Englishman above every other of his age and country. No, he was eminently
prosaic, had sucked prose and plain-thinking from his mother's breast; but
he was not the less an agreeable companion for a girl upon whose youth an
unnatural solitude had begun to weigh heavily.
All that one mind can impart to another of a widely different fibre, Denzil
had learnt from Milton in that most impressionable period of boyhood which
he had spent in the small house in Holborn, whose back rooms looked out
over the verdant spaces of Lincoln's Inn Fields, where Lord Newcastle's
palace had not yet begun to rise from its foundations, and where the
singing birds had not been scared away by the growth of the town. A theatre
now stood where the boy and a fellow-scholar had played trap and ball,
and the stately houses of Queen Street hard by were alive with rank and
In addition to the classical curriculum which Milton had taught with the
solemn earnestness of one in whom learning is a religion, Denzil had
acquired a store of miscellaneous knowledge from the great Republican;
and most interesting among these casual instructions had been the close
acquaintance with nature gained in the course of many a rustic ramble in
the country lanes beyond Gray's Inn, or sauntering eastward along the banks
of the limpid Lee, or in the undulating meadows beside Sir Hugh Middleton's
river. Mixed with plain facts about plant or flower, animal or insect,
Milton's memory was stored with the quaint absurdities of the Hermetic
philosophy, that curious mixture of deep-reaching theories and old women's
superstitions, the experience of the peasant transmuted by the imagination
of the adept. Sound and practical as the poet had ever shown himself--save
where passion got the upper hand of common sense, as in his advocacy
of divorce--he was yet not entirely free from a leaning to Baconian
superstitions, and may, with Gesner, have believed that the pickerel weed
could engender pike, and that frogs could turn to slime in winter, and
become frogs again in spring. Whatever rags of old-world fatuity may have
lingered in that strong brain, he had been not the less a delightful
teacher, and had imparted an ardent love of nature to his little family of
pupils in that peripatetic school between hawthorn hedges or in the open
fields by the Lee.
And now, in quiet rambles with Angela, in the midst of a landscape
transfigured by that vernal beauty which begins with the waning of April,
and is past and vanished before the end of May, Denzil loved to expound the
wonders of the infinitesimal; the insect life that sparkled and hummed in
the balmy air, or flashed like living light among the dewy grasses; the
life of plant and flower, which seemed almost as personal and conscious a
form of existence; since it was difficult to believe there was no sense of
struggle or of joy in those rapid growths which shot out from a tangle of
dark undergrowth upward to the sunlight, no fondness in the wild vines that
clung so close to some patriarchal trunk, covering decay with the
beautiful exuberance of youth. Denzil taught her to realise the wonders of
creation--most wonderful when most minute--for beyond the picturesque
and lovely in nature, he showed her those marvels of order, and law, and
adaptation, which speak to the naturalist with a stronger language than
There was a tranquil pleasure in these rustic walks, which beguiled her
into forgetfulness that this man had ever sought to be more to her than he
was now--a respectful, unobtrusive friend. Of London, and the tumultuous
life going on there, he had scarcely spoken, save to tell her that he meant
to stand for Henley at the next Parliament; nor had he alluded to the past
at Chilton; nor ever of his own accord had he spoken Lord Fareham's name;
indeed, that name was studiously avoided by them both; and if Denzil had
never before suspected Angela of an unhappy preference for one whom she
could not love without sin, he might have had some cause for such suspicion
in the eagerness with which she changed the drift of the conversation
whenever it approached that forbidden subject.
From his Puritanical bringing up, the theory of self-surrender and
deprivation ever kept before him, Denzil had assuredly learnt to possess
his soul in patience; and throughout all that smiling month of May, while
he whipped the capricious streams that wound about the valley, with Angela
for the willing companion of his saunterings from pool to pool, he never
once alarmed her by any hint of a warmer feeling than friendship; indeed,
he thought of himself sometimes as one who lived in an enchanted world,
where to utter a certain fatal word would be to break the spell; and
whatever momentary impulse or passionate longing, engendered by a look, a
smile, the light touch of a hand, the mere sense of proximity, might move
him to speak of his love, he had sufficient self-command to keep the fatal
words unspoken. He meant to wait till the last hour of his visit. Only when
separation was imminent would he plead his cause again. Thus at the worst
he would have lost no happy hours of her company. And, in the mean time,
since she was always kind, and seemed to grow daily more familiar and at
ease in his society, he dared hope that affection for him and forgetfulness
of that other were growing side by side in her mind.
In this companionship Angela learnt many of the secrets and subtleties of
the angler's craft, as acquired by her teacher's personal experience, or
expounded in that delightful book, then less than twenty years old, which
has ever been the angler's gospel. Often after following the meandering
water till a gentle weariness invited them to rest, Angela and Denzil
seated themselves on a sheltered bank and read their Izaak Walton together,
both out of the same volume, he pleased to point out his favourite passages
and to watch her smile as she read.
Before May was ended, she knew old Izaak almost as well as Denzil, and had
learnt to throw a fly, and to choose the likeliest spot and the happiest
hour of the day for a good trout; had learnt to watch the clouds and
cloud-shadows with an angler's keen interest; and had amused herself with
the manufacture of an artificial minnow, upon Walton's recipe, devoting
careful labour and all the resources of her embroidery basket--silks and
silver thread--to perfecting the delicate model, which, when completed, she
presented smilingly to Denzil, who was strangely moved by so childish a
toy, and had some difficulty in suppressing his emotion as he held the
glistening silken fish in his hands, and thought how her tapering fingers
had caressed it, and how much of her very self seemed, as he watched her,
to have been enwrought with the fabric. So poor, so trivial a thing; but
her first gift! If she had tossed him a flower, plucked that moment, he
would have treasured it all his life; but this, which had cost her so
much careful work, was far more than any casual blossom. Something of the
magnetism of her mind had passed into the silver thread drawn so daintily
through her rosy fingers--something of the soft light in her eyes had mixed
with the blended colours of the silk. Foolish fancies these, but in the
gravest man's love there is a vein of folly.
Sometimes they rode with Sir John, and in this way explored the
neighbourhood, which was rich in historical associations--some of the
remote past, as when King John kept Christmas at Brill; but chiefly of
those troubled times through which Sir John Kirkland had lived, an active
participator in that deadly drama. He showed them the site of the garrison
at Brill, and trod every foot of the earthworks to demonstrate how the hill
had been fortified. He had commanded in the defence against Hampden and
his greencoats--that regiment of foot raised in his pastoral shire, whose
standard bore on one side the watchword of the Parliament, "God with us,"
and on the other Hampden's own device, "_Vestigia nulla retrorsum_."
"'Twas a legend to frighten some of us, who had no Latin," said Sir John;
"but we put his bumpkin greencoats to the rout, and trampled that insolent
flag in the mire."
All was peaceful now in the hamlet on the hill. Women and children were
sitting upon sunny doorsteps, with their pillows on their knees and their
bobbins moving quickly in dexterous fingers, busy at the lace-making which
had been established in Buckinghamshire more than a century before by
Catherine of Aragon, whose dowry was derived from the revenues of Steeple
Claydon. The Curate had returned to the grey old church, and rural life
pursued its slumbrous course, scarce ruffled by rumours of maritime war,
or plague, or fire. They rode to Thame--a stage on the journey to Oxford,
Angela thought, as she noted the figures on a milestone, and at a flash her
memory recalled that scene in the gardens by the river, when Fareham had
spoken for the first time of his inner life, and she had seen the man
behind the mask. She thought of her sister, so fair, so sweet, charming in
her capriciousness even, yet not the woman to fill that unquiet heart,
or satisfy that sombre and earnest nature. It was not by many words that
Fareham had revealed himself. Her knowledge of his character and feelings
went deeper than the knowledge that words can impart. It came from that
constant unconscious study which a romantic girl devotes to the character
of the man who first awakens her interest.
Angela was grave and silent throughout the drive to Thame and the return
home, riding for the most part in the rear of the two men, leaving Denzil
to devote all his attention to Sir John, who was somewhat loquacious that
afternoon, stimulated by the many memories of the troubled time which the
road awakened. Denzil listened respectfully, and went never astray in his
answers, but he looked back very often to the solitary rider who kept at
some distance to avoid the dust.
Sometimes in the early morning they all went with the otter hounds, the
Knight on horseback, Denzil and Angela on foot, and spent two or three
very active hours before breakfast in rousing the otter from his holt, and
following every flash of his head upon the stream, with that briskness and
active enjoyment which seem a part of the clear morning atmosphere, the
inspiring breath of dewy fields and flowers unfaded by the sun. All that
there was of girlishness in Angela's spirits was awakened by those merry
morning scampers by the margin of the stream, which had often to be forded
by the runners, with but' little heed of wet feet or splashed petticoat.
The Parson and his daughters from the village of St Nicholas joined in the
sport, and were invited to the morning drink and substantial breakfast
afterwards, where the young ladies were lost in admiration of Angela's
silver chocolate-pot and porcelain cups, while their clerical father owned
to a distaste for all morning drinks except such as owed their flavour and
strength to malt and hops.
"If you had lived among green fields and damp marshes as long as I have,
miss, you would know what poor stuff your chocolate is to fortify a man's
bones against ague and rheumatism. I am told the Spaniards brought it from
Mexico, where the natives eat nothing else, from which comes the copper
colour of their skins."
* * * * *
Denzi's visit lasted over a month, during which time he rode into
Oxfordshire twice, to see Lady Warner, stopping a night each time, lest
that worthy person should fancy herself neglected.
Sir John derived the utmost pleasure from the young man's company, who bore
himself towards his host with a respectful courtesy that had gone out of
fashion after the murder of the King, and was rarely met with in an age
when elderly men were generally spoken of as "old puts," and considered
proper subjects for "bubbling."
To Denzil the old campaigner opened his heart more freely than he had ever
done to any one except a brother in arms; and although he was resolute in
upholding the cause of Monarchy against Republicanism, he owned to the
natural disappointment which he had felt at the King's neglect of old
friends, and reluctantly admitted that Charles, sauntering along Pall Mall
with ruin at his heels, and the wickedest men and women in England for his
chosen companions, was not a monarch to maintain and strengthen the public
idea of the divinity that doth hedge a King.
"Of all the lessons danger and adversity can teach he has learnt but
one," said Sir John, with a regretful sigh. "He has learnt the Horatian
philosophy--to snatch the pleasures of the day, and care nothing what may
happen on the morrow. I do not wonder that predictions of a sudden end to
this globe of ours should have been bruited about of late; for if lust
and profaneness could draw down fire from heaven, London would be in as
perilous a case as Gomorrah. But I doubt such particular judgments belonged
but to the infancy of this world, when men believed in a Personal God,
interested in all their concerns, watchful to bless or to punish. We have
now but the God of Spinoza--a God who is in all things and everywhere about
us, of whom this Creation in which we move is but the garment--a Universal
Essence which should govern and inform all we are and all we do; but not
the Judge and Father of His people, to be reached by prayer and touched by
"Ah, sir, our life here and hereafter is encompassed with mystery. To think
is to be lost on the trackless ocean of doubt. The Papists have the easiest
creed, for they believe that which they are taught, and take the mysteries
of the unseen world at second hand from their Priests. A year ago, had I
been happy enough to win your daughter, I should have tried my hardest to
wean her from Rome; but I have lived and thought since then, and I have
come to see that Calvinism is a religion of despair, and that the doctrine
of Predestination involves contradictions as difficult to swallow as any
fable of the Roman Church."
"It is well that you should be prepared to let her keep her religion; for
I doubt she has a stubborn affection for the creed she learnt in her
childhood. Indeed, it was but the other day she talked of the cloister; and
I fear she has all the disposition to that religious prison in which her
great aunt lived contentedly for the space of a long lifetime. But it is
for you, Denzil, to cure her of that fancy, and to spare me the pain of
seeing my best-beloved child under the black veil."
"Indeed, sir, if a love as earnest as man ever experienced--"
"Yes, Denzil, I know you love her; and I love you almost as if you were my
very son. In the years that went by after Hyacinth was born, before the
beginning of trouble, I used to long for a son, and I am afraid I did
sometimes distress my dear wife by dwelling too persistently upon
disappointed hopes. And then came chaos--England in arms, a rebellious
people, a King put upon his defence--and I had leisure to think of none but
my royal master. And in the thick of the strife my poor lamb was born to
me--the bringer of my life's great sorrow--and there was no more thought of
sons. So, you see, friend, the place in my heart and home has waited empty
for you. Win but yonder shy dove to consent, and we shall be of one family
and of one mind, and I as happy as any broken-down campaigner in England
can be--content to creep to the grave in obscurity, forgotten by the Prince
whose father it is my dear memory to have served."
"You loved your King, sir, I take it, with a personal affection."
"Ah, Denzil, we all loved him. Even the common people--led as they were
by hectoring preachers of sedition, of no more truth or honesty than the
mountebanks that ply their knavish trade round Henry's statue on the Pont
Neuf--even they, the very rabble, had their hours of loyalty. I rode with
his Majesty from Royston to Hatfield, in '47, when the people filled the
midsummer air with his name, from hearts melting with love and pity. They
strewed the ways with boughs, and strewed the boughs with roses. So great
honour has been seldom shown to a royal captive."
"I take it that the lower class are no politicians, and loved their King
for his private virtues."
"Never was monarch worthier to be so esteemed. He was a man of deep
affections, and it was perhaps his most fatal quality where he loved
to love too much. I have no grudge against that beautiful and most
accomplished woman he so worshipped, and who was ever gracious to me; but I
cannot doubt that Henrietta Maria was his evil star. She had the fire and
daring of her father, but none of his care and affection for the people.
The daughter of the most beloved of kings had the instincts of a tyrant,
and was ever urging her too pliant husband to unpopular measures. She
wanted to set that little jewelled shoe of hers on the neck of rebellion,
when she should have held out her soft white hand to make friends of her
foes. Her beauty and her grace might have done much, had she inherited with
the pride of the Medici something of their finesse and suavity. But he
loved her, Denzil, forgave all her follies, her lavish spending and
wasteful splendour. 'My wife is a bad housekeeper,' I heard him say once,
when she was hanging upon his chair as he sat at the end of the Council
table. The palace accounts were on the table--three thousand pounds for
a masque--extravagance only surpassed by Nicholas Fouquet twenty years
afterwards, when he was squandering the public money. 'My wife is a bad
housekeeper,' his Majesty said gently, and then he drew down the little
French museau with a caressing hand, and kissed her in the presence of
"His son is strangely unlike him in domestic matters."
"His son has the manners of a Frenchman and the morals of a Turk. He is a
despot to his wife and a slave to his mistress. There never was greater
cruelty to a woman than his Majesty's treatment of Catherine while she was
still but a stranger in the land, and when he forced his notorious paramour
upon her as her lady of honour. Of honour, quotha! There was sorry store of
honour in his conduct. He had need feel the sting of remorse t'other day
when the poor lady was thought to be on her death-bed--so gentle,
so affectionate, so broken to the long-suffering of consort-queens,
apologising for having lived to trouble him. Ned Hyde has given me the
whole story of that poor lady's subjugation, for he was behind the scenes,
and in their secrets. Poor soul! Blood rushed from her ears and nostrils
when that shameless woman was brought to her, and she was carried swooning
to her chamber. And then she was sullen, and the King threatened her, and
sent away all her Portuguese, save one ancient waiting woman. I grant
you they were ugly devils, fit to set in a field to frighten crows;
but Catherine loved them. Royal treatment for a Christian Queen from a
Christian King! Could the Sophy do worse? And presently the poor lady
yielded (as most women will, for at heart they are slavish and love to be
beaten), and after holding herself aloof for a long time--a sad, silent,
neglected figure where all the rest were loud and merry--she made friends
with the lady, and even seemed to fawn upon her."
"And now I dare swear the two women mingle their tears when Charles is
unfaithful to both; or Catherine weeps while Barbara curses. That would be
more in character. Fire and not water is her ladyship's element."
"Ah, Denzil, 'tis a curious change; and to have lived to see Buckingham
murdered, and Stafford sacrificed, and the Rebellion, and the Commonwealth,
and the Restoration, and the Plague, and the Fire, and to have skirmished
in the battles of Parliaments and Princes, t'other side the Channel, and
seen the tail of the Thirty Years' War, towns ruined, villages laid waste,
where Tilly passed in blood and fire, is to have lived through as wild a
variety of fortunes as ever madman invented in a dream."
* * * * *
Denzil lingered at the Manor, urged again and again by his host to stay
over the day fixed for departure, and so lengthening his visit with a most
willing submission till late in June, when the silence of the nightingales
made sleep more possible, and the sunset was so late and the sunrise so
early that there seemed to be no such thing as night. He had made up his
mind to plead for a hearing in the hour of farewell; and it may have been
as much from apprehension of that fateful hour as even from the delight of
being in his mistress's company that he acceded with alacrity when Sir John
desired him to stay. But an end must come at last to all hesitations, and a
familiar verse repeated itself in his brain with the persistent iteration
of cathedral chimes--
"He either fears his fate too much,
Or his desert is small,
Who fears to put it to the touch,
And win or lose it all."
Sir John pushed him towards his fate with affectionate urgency.
"Never be dastardised by a girl's refusal, man," said the Knight, warm with
his morning draught, on that last day, when the guest's horses had been
fed for a journey, and the saddle-bags packed. "Don't let a simpleton's
coldness cow your spirits. The wench likes you; else she would scarce have
endured your long sermons upon weeds and insects, or been smiling and
contented in your company all these weeks. Take heart of grace, man; and
remember that though I am no tyrannical father to drag an unwilling bride
to the altar, I have all a father's authority, and will not have my dearest
wishes baulked by the capricious humours of a coquette."
"Not for worlds, sir, would I owe to authority what love cannot freely
"Don't chop logic, Denzil. You want my daughter; and by God you shall have
her! Win her with pretty speeches if you can. If she turn stubborn she
shall have plain English from me. I have promised not to force her
inclination; but if I am driven to harsh measures 'twill be for her own
good I am severe. Ventregris! What can fortune give her better than a
handsome and virtuous husband?"
Angela was in the garden when Denzil went to take leave of her. She was
walking up and down beside a long border of June flowers, screened from
rough winds by those thick walls of yew which gave such a comfortable
sheltered feeling to the Manor gardens, while in front of flowers and turf
there sparkled the waters of a long pond or stew, stocked with tench and
carp, some among them as ancient and as greedy as the scaly monsters of
The sun was shining on the dark green water and the gaudy flower-bed,
and Angela's favourite spaniel was running about the grass, barking his
loudest, chasing bird or butterfly with impotent fury, since he never
caught anything. At sight of Denzil he tore across the greensward, his
silky ears flying, and barked at him as if the young man's appearance in
that garden were an insufferable impertinence; but, on being taken up in
one strong hand, changed his opinion, and slobbered the face of the foe in
an ecstasy of affection.
"Soho, Ganymede, thou knowest I bear thee a good heart, plaything and mere
pretence of a dog as thou art," said Denzil, depositing their little bundle
of black-and-tan flossiness at Angela's feet.
He might have carried and nursed his mistress's favourite with pleasure
during any casual sauntering and random talk; but a man could hardly ask to
have his fate decided for good or ill with a toy spaniel in his arms.
"My horse is at the door, Angela, and I am come to bid you good-bye," he
said in a grave voice.
The words were of the simplest; but there was something in his tone that
told her all was not said. She paled at the thought of an approaching
conflict; for she knew her father was against her, and that there must be
They walked the length of flower border and lawn in silence; and then, when
they were furthest from the house, and from the hazard of eyes looking out
of windows, he stopped suddenly, and took her unresisting hand, which lay
cold in his.
"Dearest, I have kept silence through all those blessed days in which you
and I have been together; but I have not left off loving you or hoping for
you. Things have changed since I spoke to you in London last winter. I have
a powerful advocate now whose pleading ought to prevail with you--a father
whose anxious affection urges what my passionate love so ardently desires.
Indeed, dear heart, if you will be kind, you can make a father and lover
happy with one breath. You have but to say 'Yes' to the prayer you know
"Alas! Denzil, I cannot. I am your true and faithful friend. If you were
sick and alone--as his lordship was--I would go to you and nurse you, as
your friend and sister. If you were poor and I were rich, I would divide my
fortune with you. I shall always think of you with affection--always take
pleasure in your society, if you will let me; but it must be as your
sister. You have no sister, Denzil--I no brother. Why cannot we be to each
other as brother and sister?"
"Only because from the hour when your beauty and sweetness began to grow
into my mind I have been your lover, and nothing else--your adoring lover.
I cannot change my fervent hope for the poor name of friend. I can never
again dare be to you what I have been in this happy season last past,
unless you will let me be more than I have been."
Only that one word, with a sorrowful shake of the graceful head, covered
with feathery ringlets in the dainty fashion of that day, so becoming in
youth, so inappropriate to advancing years, when the rich profusion of
curls came straight from Chedreux, or some of his imitators, and baldness
was hidden by the spoils of the dead.
No need for more than that sad dissyllable.
"Then I am no nearer winning this dear hand than I was at Fareham House?"
he said heartbrokenly, for he had built high hopes upon her kindness and
willing companionship in that Arcadian valley.
"I told you then that I should never marry. I have not changed my mind. I
never can change. I am to be Henriette's spinster aunt."
"And Fareham's spinster sister?" said Denzil. "I understand. We are neither
of us cured of our malady. It is my disease to love you in spite of your
disdain. It is your disease to love where you should not. Farewell!"
He was gone before she could reply. The livid anger of his face, the
deep resentment in his voice, haunted her memory, and made life almost
"My sin has found me out!" she said to herself, as she paced the garden
with the rapid steps that indicate a distempered spirit. "What right has he
to pry into the depths of my mind, and ferret out all that there is of evil
in my nature? Well, he goes the surest way to make me hate him. If ever he
comes here again, I will run away and hide from all who know me. I would
rather be a farm-servant, and rise at daybreak to work in the fields, than
endure his insolence."
She had to bear worse pain before Denzil had ridden far upon his journey;
for her father came to the garden to seek her, eager to know the result of
his _protege's_ wooing.
"Well, sweetheart," he began, taking her to his bosom and kissing her. "Do
I salute the future Lady Warner?"
"No, sir; I am too well content with the name I inherit to desire any
"That is gracefully said, cherie; but I want to see my ewe lamb happily
wedded. Has thy sweetheart stolen away without finding courage to ask the
question that has been on the tip of his tongue for the last six weeks?"
"He has been both importunate and impertinent, sir, and he has had his
answer. I hope I may never see him again."
"What! you have refused him? You must be mad!"
"No, sir; sober and sane enough to know when I am happy. I told you before
this gentleman came here that I did not mean to marry. Surely I am not so
unloving a daughter that I must be driven to take a husband, because my
father will not have me."
"Angela, it is for your own safety and welfare I would see you married.
What have you to succeed to when I am gone? An impoverished estate, in a
country that has seen such rough changes within a score of years that one
dare scarcely calculate upon a prolonged time of safety, even in this
sequestered valley. God only knows when cannon-balls may tear up our
fields, and bullets whistle through the copses. This Monarchy, restored
with such a clamorous approval, may endure no longer than the Commonwealth,
which was thought to be lasting. His Majesty's trivial life and gross
extravagance have disgusted and alarmed some who loved him dearly, and have
set the common people questioning whether the rough rule of the Protector
were not better than the ascendency of shameless women and dissolute men.
The pageantry of Whitehall may vanish like a parchment scroll in a furnace,
and Charles, who has tasted the sours of exile, may be again a wanderer,
dependent on the casual munificence of foreign states; and in such an evil
hour," continued the Knight, his mind straying from the contemplation of
his daughter's future to the memory of his own wrongs, "Charles Stuart
may remember the old puts who fought and suffered for his father, and how
scurvy a recompense they had for their services."
He reverted to Denzil's offer after a brief silence, Angela walking
dutifully by his side, prepared to suffer any harshness upon his part
"I love the young man, and he would be to me as a son," he said; "the
comrade and support of my old age. I am poor, as the world goes now; have
but just enough to live modestly in this retreat, where life costs but
little. He is rich, and can give you a handsome seat near your sister's
mansion; and a house in London if you desire one; less splendid, doubtless,
than Fareham's palace on the Thames, but more befitting the habits and
manners of an English gentleman's wife. He can give you hounds and hawks,
your riding-horses, and your coach-and-six. What more, in God's name, can
any reasonable woman desire?"
"Only one thing, sir. To live my own life in peace, as my conscience and my
reason bid me. I cannot love Denzil Warner, though of late I have grown
to like and respect him as a friend and most intelligent companion. Your
persistence is fast changing friendship into dislike; and the very name of
the man would speedily become hateful to me."
"Oh, I have done!" retorted Sir John. "I am no tyrant. You must take your
own way, mistress. I can but lament that Providence gave me only two
daughters, and one of them an arrant fool."
He left her in a huff, and had it not been for an astonishing event, which
convulsed town and country, and suspended private interests and private
quarrels in the excitement of public affairs, she would have heard much
more of his discontent.
The Dutch ships were at Chatham. English men-of-war were blazing at the
very mouth of the Thames, and there was panic lest the triumphant foe
should sail their fire-ships up the river to London, besiege the Tower,
relight the fire whose ashes were scarce grown cold, pillage, slaughter,
destroy--as Tilly had destroyed the wretched Provinces in the religious
Here, in this sheltered haven, amidst green fields, under the lee of the
Brill, the panic and consternation were as intense as if the village of St.
Nicholas were the one spot the Dutch would make for after landing; and,
indeed, there were rustics who went to the placid scene where the infant
Thame rises in its cradle of reed and lily, half expectant of seeing
Netherlandish vessels stranded among the rushes.
The Dutch fleet was at Chatham. Ships were being sunk across the Medway, to
stop the invader.
Sheerness was to be fortified. London was in arms; and Brill remembered
its repulse of Hampden's regiment with a proud consciousness of being
The Dutch fleet saved Angela many a paternal lecture; for Sir John rode
post-haste towards London, and did not return until the end of the month.
In London he found Hyacinth, much disturbed about her husband, who had
gone as volunteer with General Middleton, and was in command of a cavalry
regiment at Chatham.
"I never saw him in such spirits as when he left me," Lady Fareham told her
father. "I believe he is ever happiest when he breathes gunpowder."
* * * * *
Sir John's leave-taking had been curt and moody, for Angela's offence
rankled deep in his mind; and it was as much as he could do to command his
anger, even in bidding her good-bye.
"Did I not tell you that we live in troubled times, and that no man can
foresee the coming evil, or how great our woes and distractions may be?" he
asked, with a gloomy triumph. "Whoever thought to hear De Ruyter's guns at
Sheerness, or to see the Royal Charles led captive? Absit omen! Who knows
what destruction may come upon that other Royal Charles, for whose safety
we pray morning and night, and who lolls across a basset-table, perhaps,
with his wantons around him, while we are on our knees supplicating the
Creator for him? Who knows? We may have London in flames again, and a
conflagration more fatal than the last, thou obstinate wench, before thou
art a week older, and every able-bodied man called away from plough and
pasture to serve the King, and desolation and famine where plenty now
smiles at us. And is this a time in which to refuse a valiant and wealthy
protector, a lover as honest as ever God made; a pious, conforming
Christian, of unsullied name; a young man after my own pattern; a fine
horseman and a good farmer; one who loves a pack of hounds and a well-bred
horse, a flight of hawks and a match at bowls, better than to give chase to
a she-rake in the Mall, or to drink himself stark mad at a tavern in Covent
Garden with debauchees from Whitehall?"
Sir John prosed and grumbled to the last moment, but could not refuse to
bend down from his saddle and kiss the fair, pale face that looked at him
in piteous deprecation at the moment of parting.
"Well, keep a brave heart, Mistress Wilful. Thou art safe here yet awhile
from Dutch marauders. I go but to find out how much truth there is in these
She begged him not to fatigue himself with too long stages, and went back
to the silent house, thankful to be alone in her despondency. She felt as
if the last page in her worldly life had been written. She had to turn
her thoughts backward to that quiet retreat where there would at least be
peace. She had promised her father that she would not return to the Convent
while he wanted her at home. But was that promise to hold good if he were
to embitter her life by urging her to a marriage that would only bring her
She had ample leisure for thought in one summer day of a solitude so
absolute that she began to shiver in the sultry stillness of afternoon,
and scarce ventured to raise her eyes from her embroidery frame, lest some
shadowy presence, some ghost out of the dead past, should hover near,
watching her as she sat alone in scenes where that pale spirit had been
living flesh. The thought of all who had lived and died in that house--men
and women of her own race, whose qualities of mind and person she had
inherited--oppressed her in the long hours of silent reverie. Before
her first day of loneliness had ended, her spirits had sunk to deepest
melancholy; and in that weaker condition of mind she had begun to ask
herself whether she had any right to oppose her father's wishes by denying
herself to a suitor whom she esteemed and respected, and whose filial
affection would bring new sunshine into that dear father's declining years.
She had noted their manner to each other during Denzil's protracted visit,
and had seen all the evidences of a warm regard on both sides. She had too
complete a faith in Denzil's sterling worth to question the reality of any
feeling which his words and manner indicated. He was above all things a
man of truth and honesty. She was roaming about the gardens with her dog
towards noon in the second day of her solitude, when across the yew hedges
she saw white clouds of dust rising from the high-road, and heard
the clatter of hoofs and roll of wheels--a noise as of a troop of
cavalry--whereat Ganymede barked himself almost into an apoplexy, and
rushed across the grass like a mad thing.
A great cracking of whips and sound of voices, horses galloping, horses
trotting, dust enough to whiten all the hedges and greensward! Angela stood
at gaze, wondering if the Dutch were coming to storm the old house, or the
county militia coming to garrison it.
The Manor Moat was the destination of that clamorous troop, whoever they
were. Wheels and horses stopped sharply at the great iron gate in front of
the house, and the bell began to ring furiously, while other dogs, with
voices that resembled Ganymede's, answered his shrill bark with even
Angela ran towards the gate, and was near enough to see it opened to
admit three black-and-tan spaniels, and one slim personage in a long
flame-coloured brocatelle gown and a large beaver hat, who approached with
stately movements, a small, pert nose held high, and rosy upper lip curled
in patrician disdain of common things, while a fan of peacock's plumage,
that flashed sapphire and emerald in the fierce noonday sun, was waved
slowly before the dainty face, scattering the tremulous life of summer that
buzzed and fluttered in the sultry air.
In the rear of this brilliant figure appeared a middle-aged person in
a grey silk gown and hood, and a negro page in the Fareham livery, a
waiting-woman, and a tall lackey, so many being the necessary adjuncts to
the Honourable Henrietta Maria Revel's state when she went abroad.
Angela ran to receive her niece with a cry of rapture, and the tall slip of
a girl in the flame-coloured frock was clasped to her aunt's heart with a
ruthless disregard of the beaver hat and cataract of ostrich plumage.
"Prends garde d'abimer mon chapeau, p'tite tante," cried Henriette, "'tis
one of Lewin's Nell Gwyn hats, and cost twenty guineas, without the buckle,
which I stole out of father's shoe t'other day. His lordship is so careless
about his clothes that he wore the shoes two days and never knew there was
a buckle missing, and those lazy devils his servants never told him. I
believe they meant to rook him of t'other buckle."
"Chatterer, chatterer, how happy I am to see thee! But is not your mother
"Her ladyship is in London. Everybody of importance is scampering off to
London; and no doubt will be rushing back to the country again if the Dutch
take the Tower; but I don't think they will while my father is able to
raise a regiment."
"And mademoiselle"--with a curtsy to the lady in grey--"has brought you all
this long way through the heat to see me?"
"I have brought mademoiselle," Henrietta answered contemptuously, before
the Frenchwoman had finished the moue and the shrug which with her always
preceded speech; "and a fine plague I had to make her come."
"Madame will conceive that, in miladi's absence, it was a prodigious
inconvenience to order two coaches, and travel so far. His lordship's groom
of the chambers is my witness that I protested against such an outrageous
"Two coaches!" exclaimed Angela.
"A coach-and-six for me and my dogs and my gouvernante, and a
coach-and-four for my people," explained Henriette, who had modelled her
equipage and suite upon a reminiscence of the train which attended Lady
Castlemaine's visit to Chilton, as beheld from a nursery window.
"Come, child, and rest, out of the sun; and you, mademoiselle, must need
refreshment after so long a drive."
"Our progress through a perpetual cloud of dust and a succession of narrow
lanes did indeed suggest the torments of purgatory; but the happiness
of madame's gracious welcome is an all-sufficient compensation for our
fatigue," mademoiselle replied, with a deep curtsey.
"I was not tired in the least," asserted Henriette. "We stopped at the
Crown at Thame and had strawberries and milk."
"_You_ had strawberries and milk, mon enfant. I have a digestion which will
not allow such liberties."
"And our horses were baited, and our people had their morning drink," said
Henriette, with her grown-up air. "One ought always to remember cattle and
servants. May we put up our horses with you, auntie? We must leave you soon
after dinner, so as to be at Chilton by sunset, or mademoiselle will
be afraid of highwaymen, though I told Samuel and Peter to bring their
blunderbusses in case of an attack. Ma'amselle has no valuables, and at the
worst I should but have to give them my diamond buckle, and my locket with
his lordship's portrait."
Angela's cheeks flushed at that chance allusion to Fareham's picture. It
brought back a vision of the Convent parlour, and she standing there with
Fareham's miniature in her hand, wonderingly contemplative of the dark,
strong face. At that stage of her life she had seen so few men's faces;
and this one had a power in it that startled her. Did she divine, by some
supernatural foreknowledge, that this face held the secret of her destiny?
She went to the house, with Henriette's lissom form hanging upon her, and
the grey governess tripping mincingly beside them, tottering a little upon
her high heels.
Old Reuben had crept out into the sunshine, with a rustic footman following
him, and the cook was looking out at a window in the wing where kitchen and
servants' hall occupied as important a position as the dining-parlour and
saloon on the opposite side. A hall with open roof, wide double staircase,
and music gallery, filled the central space between the two projecting
wings, and at the back there was a banqueting-chamber or ball-room, where
in more prosperous days, the family had been accustomed to dine on all
stately occasions--a room now shabby and grey with disuse.
While the footman showed the way to the stables, Angela drew Reuben aside
for a brief consultation as to ways and means for a dinner that must be the
best the house could provide, and which might be served at two o'clock, the
later hour giving time for extra preparation. A capon, larded after the
French fashion, a pair of trouts, the finest the stream could furnish, or a
carp stewed in clary wine, and as many sweet kickshaws as cook's ingenuity
could furnish at so brief a notice. Nor were waiting-woman, lackey, and
postillions to be neglected. Chine and sirloin, pudding and beer must be
provided for all.
"There are six men besides the black boy," sighed Reuben; they will devour
us a week's provision of butcher's meat."
"If you have done your housekeeping, tante, let me go to your favourite
summer-house with you, and tell you my secrets. I am perishing for a
_tete-a-tete!_ Ma'amselle"--with a wave of the peacock fan--"can take a
siesta, and forget the dust of the road, while we converse."
Angela ushered mademoiselle to the pretty summer-parlour, looking out upon
a geometrical arrangement of flower-beds in the Dutch manner. Chocolate
and other light refreshments were being prepared for the travellers; but
Henrietta's impatience would wait for nothing.
"I have not driven along these detestable roads to taste your chocolate,"
she protested. "I have a world to say to you: en attendant, mademoiselle,
you will consider everything at your disposal in the house of my
grandfather, jusqu'a deux heures."
She sank almost to the ground in a Whitehall curtsy, rose swift as an
arrow, tucked her arm through Angela's, and pulled her out of the room,
paying no attention to the governess's voluble injunctions not to expose
her complexion to the sun, or to sit in a cold wind, or to spoil her gown.
"What a shabby old place it is!" she said, looking critically round her as
they went through the gardens. "I'm afraid you must perish with _ennui_
here, with so few servants and no company to speak of. Yes"--contemplating
her shrewdly, as they seated themselves in a stone temple at the end of the
bowling-green--"you are looking moped and ill. This valley air does not
agree with you. Well, you can have a much finer place whenever you choose.
A better house and garden, ever so much nearer Chilton. And you will
choose, won't you, dearest?" nestling close to her, after throwing off the
big hat which made such loving contact impossible.
"I don't understand you, Henriette."
"If you call me Henriette I shall be sure you are angry with me."
"No, love, not angry, but surprised."
"You think I have no right to talk of your sweetheart, because I am only
thirteen--and have scarce left off playing with babies--I have hated them
for ages, only people persist in giving me the foolish puppets. I know more
of the world than you do, auntie, after being shut in a Convent the best
part of your life. Why are you so obstinate, ma cherie, in refusing a
gentleman we all like?"
"Do you mean Sir Denzil?"
"Sans doute. Have you a crowd of servants?"
"No, child, only this one. But don't you see that other people's liking
has less to do with the question than mine? And if I do not like him well
enough to be his wife----"
"But you ought to like him. You know how long her ladyship's heart has been
set on the match; you must have seen what pains she took in London to have
Sir Denzil always about you. And now, after a most exemplary patience,
after being your faithful servant for over a year, he asks you to be his
wife, and you refuse, obstinately refuse. And you would rather mope here
with my poor old grandfather--in abject poverty--mother says 'abject
poverty'--than be the honoured mistress of one of the finest seats in
"I would rather do what is right and honest, my dearest It is dishonest to
marry without love."
"Then half mother's fine friends must be dishonest, for I dare swear that
very few of them love their husbands."
"Henriette, you talk of things you don't know."
"Don't know! Why, there is no one in London knows more. I am always
listening, and I always remember. De Malfort used to say I had a plaguey
long memory, when I told him of things he had said a year ago."
"My dear, I love you fondly, but I cannot have you talk to me of what you
don't understand; and I am sorry Sir Denzil Warner had no more courtesy
than to go and complain of me to my sister."
"He did not come to Chilton to complain. Her ladyship met him on the way
from Oxford in her coach. He was riding, and she called to him to come
to the coach door. It was the day after he left you, and he was looking
miserable; and she questioned him, and he owned that his suit had been
rejected, and he had no further hope. My mother came home in a rage. But
why was she angry with his lordship? Indeed, she rated him as if it were
his fault you refused Sir Denzil."
Angela sat silent, and the hand Henriette was clasping grew cold as ice.
"Did my father bid you refuse him, aunt?" asked the girl, scrutinising her
aunt's countenance, with those dark grey eyes, so like Fareham's in their
"No, child. Why should he interfere? It is no business of his."
"Then why was mother so angry? She walked up and down the room in a
towering passion. 'This is your doing,' she cried. 'If she were not your
adoring slave, she would have jumped at so handsome a sweetheart. This is
your witchcraft. It is you she loves--you--you--you!' His lordship stood
dumb, and pointed to me. 'Do you forget your child is present?' he said. 'I
forget everything except that everybody uses me shamefully,' she cried.
'I was only made to be slighted and trampled upon.' His lordship made
no answer, but walked to the door in that way he ever has when he is
angered--pale, frowning, silent. I was standing in his way, and he gripped
me by the arm, and dragged me out of the room. I dare venture there is a
bruise on my arm where he held me. I know his fingers hurt me with their
grip; and I could hear my lady screaming and sobbing as he took me away.
But he would not let me go back to her. He would only send her women. 'Your
mother has an interval of madness,' he said; 'you are best out of her
presence.' The news of the Dutch ships came the same evening, and my father
rode off towards London, and my mother ordered her coach, and followed an
hour after. They seemed both distracted; and only because you refused Sir
"I cannot help her ladyship's foolishness, Papillon. She has no occasion
for any of this trouble. I am her dutiful, affectionate sister; but my
heart is not hers to give or to refuse."
"But was it indeed my father's fault? Is it because you adore him that you
refused Sir Denzil?"
"No--no--no. My affection for my brother--he has been to me as a
brother--can make no difference in my regard for any one else. One cannot
fall in love at another's ordering, or be happy with a husband of another's
choice. You will discover that for yourself, Papillon, perhaps, when you
are a woman."
"Oh, I mean to marry for wealth and station, as all the clever women do,"
said Papillon, with an upward jerk of her delicate chin. "Mrs. Lewin always
says I ought to be a duchess. I should like to have married the Duke of
Monmouth, and then, who knows, I might have been a Queen. The King's other
sons are too young for me, and they will never have Monmouth's chance. But,
indeed, sweetheart, you ought to marry Sir Denzil, and come and live near
us at Chilton. You would make us all happy."
"Ma tres chere, it is so easy to talk--but when thou thyself art a
"I shall never care for such trumpery as love. I mean to have a grand
house--ever so much grander than Fareham House. Perhaps I may marry a
Frenchman, and have a salon, and all the wits about me on my day. I would
make it gayer than Mademoiselle de Scudery's Saturdays, which my governess
so loves to talk of. There should be less talk and more dancing. But
listen, p'tite tante," clasping her arms suddenly round Angela's neck, "I
won't leave this spot till you have promised to change your mind about
Denzil. I like him vastly; and I'm sure there's no reason why you should
not love him--unless you really are his lordship's adoring slave,"
emphasising those last words, "and he has forbidden you."
Angela sat dumb, her eyes fixed on vacancy.
"Why, you are like the lady in those lines you made me learn, who 'sat like
patience on a monument, smiling at grief.' Dearest, why so sad? Remember
that fine house--and the dairy that was once a chapel. You could turn it
into a chapel again if you liked, and have your own chaplain. His Majesty
takes no heed of what we Papists do--being a Papist himself at heart, they
say--though poor wretches are dragged off to gaol for worshipping in a
conventicle. What is a conventicle? Will you not change your mind, dearest?
Answer, answer, answer!"
The slender arms tightened their caress, the pretty little brown face
pressed itself against Angela's pale, cold cheek.
"For my sake, sweetheart, say thou wilt have him. I will go to see thee
"I have been here for months and you have not come, though I begged you in
a dozen letters."
"I have been kept at my book and my dancing lessons. Mademoiselle told her
ladyship that I was a monster of ignorance. I have been treated shamefully.
I could not have come to-day had my lady been at home; but I would not
brook a hireling's dictation. Voyons, p'tite tante, tu seras miladi Warner.
Dis, dis, que je te fasse mourir de baisers."
She was almost stifling her aunt with kisses in the intervals of her eager
"The last word has been spoken, Papillon. I have sent him away--and it was
not the first time. I had refused him before. I cannot call him back."
"But he shall come without calling. He is your adoring slave," cried
Henriette, leaping up from the stone bench, and clapping her hands in
an ecstasy. "He will need no calling. Dearest, dearest, most exquisite,
delectable auntie! I am so happy! And my mother will be content. And no one
shall ever say you are my father's slave."
"Henriette, if you repeat that odious phrase I shall hate you!"
"Now you are angry. God, what a frown! I will repeat no word that angers
you. My Lady Warner--sweet Lady Warner. I vow 'tis a prettier name than
Revel or Fareham."
"You are mad, Henriette! I have promised nothing."
"Yes, you have, little aunt. You have promised to drop a curtsy, and say
'Yes' when Sir Denzil rides this way. You sent him away in a huff. He will
come back smiling like yonder sunshine on the water. Oh, I am so happy! My
doing, all my doing!"
"It is useless to argue with you."
"Quite useless. Il n'y a pas de quoi. Nous sommes d'accord. I shall be
your chief bridesmaid. You must be married in her Majesty's chapel at St.
James's. The Pope will give his dispensation--if you cannot persuade Denzil
to change his religion. Were he my suitor I would twist him round my
fingers," with an airy gesture of the small brown hand.
There is nothing more difficult than to convince a child that she pleads in
vain for any ardently desired object. Nothing that Angela could say would
reconcile her niece to the idea of failure; so there was no help but to let
her fancy her arguments conclusive, and to change the bent of her thoughts
It wanted nearly an hour of dinner-time, so Angela suggested an inspection
of the home farm, which was close by, trusting that Henriette's love of
animals would afford an all-sufficient diversion; nor was she disappointed,
for the little fine lady was quite as much at home in stable and cowshed as
in a London drawing-room, and spent a happy hour in making friends with
the live stock, from the favourite Hereford cow, queen of the herd, to the
smallest bantam in the poultry-yard.
To this rustic entertainment followed dinner, in the preparation of which
banquet Marjory Cook had surpassed herself; and Papillon, being by this
time seriously hungry, sat and feasted to her heart's content, discussing
the marrow pudding and the stewed carp with the acumen and authority of a
"I like this old-fashioned rustic diet," she said condescendingly.
She reproached her governess with not doing justice to a syllabub; but
showed herself a fine lady by her complaint at the lack of ice for her
"My grandfather should make haste and build an icehouse before next
winter," she drawled. "One can scarce live through this weather without
ice," fanning herself, with excessive languor.
"I hope, dear, thou wilt not expire on the journey home."
The coaches were at the gate before Papillon had finished dinner, and
Mademoiselle was in great haste to be gone, reminding her pupil that she
had travelled so far against her will and at the hazard of angering Madame
"Madame la Baronne will be enraptured when she knows what I have done to
please her," answered Papillon, and then, with a last parting embrace,
hugging her aunt's fair neck more energetically than ever, she whispered,
"I shall tell Denzil. You will make us all happy."
A cloud of dust, a clatter of hoofs, Ma'amselle's screams as the carriage
rocked while she was mounting the steps, and with much cracking of whips
and swearing at horses from the postillions who had taken their fill of
home-brewed ale, hog's harslet, and cold chine, and, lo, the brilliant
vision of the Honourable Henrietta Maria and her train vanished in the dust
of the summer highway, and Angela went slowly back to the long green walk
beside the fish-pond, where she was in as silent a solitude, but for a
lingering nightingale or two, as if she had been in the palace of the
sleeping beauty. If all things slumbered not, there was at least as marked
a pause in life. The Dutch might be burning more ships, and the noise of
war might be coming nearer London with every hour of the summer day. Here
there was a repose as of the after-life, when all hopes and dreams and
loves and hates are done and ended, and the soul waits in darkness and
silence for the next unfolding of its wings.
Those hateful words, "your adoring slave," and all that speech of
Hyacinth's which the child had repeated, haunted Angela with an agonising
iteration. She had not an instant's doubt as to the scene being faithfully
reported. She knew how preternaturally acute Henriette's intellect had
become in the rarified atmosphere of her mother's drawing-room, how
accurate her memory, how sharp her ears, and how observant her eyes.
Whatever Henriette reported was likely to be to the very letter and spirit
of the scene she had witnessed. And Hyacinth, her sister, had put this
shame upon her, had spoken of her in the cruelest phrase as loving one whom
it was mortal sin to love. Hyacinth, so light, so airy a creature, whom her
younger sister had ever considered as a grown-up child, had yet been shrewd
enough to fathom her mystery, and to discover that secret attachment which
had made Denzil's suit hateful to her. "And if I do not consent to marry
him she will always think ill of me. She will think of me as a wretch who
tried to steal her husband's love--a worse woman than Lady Castlemaine--for
she had the King's affection before he ever saw the Queen's poor plain
face. His adoring slave!"
Evening shadows were around her. She had wandered into the woods, was
slowly threading the slender cattle tracks in the cool darkness; while that
passionate song of the nightingales rose in a louder ecstasy as the quiet
of the night deepened, and the young moon hung high above the edge of a
"His adoring slave," she repeated, with her hands clasped above her
Hateful, humiliating words! Yet there was a keen rapture in repeating them.
They were true words. His slave--his slave to wait upon him in sickness and
pain; to lie and watch at his door like a faithful dog; to follow him to
the wars, and clean his armour, and hold his horse, and wait in his tent
to receive him wounded, and heal his wounds where surgeons failed to cure,
wanting that intensity of attention and understanding which love alone can
give; to be his Bellario, asking nothing of him, hoping for nothing, hardly
for kind words or common courtesy, foregoing woman's claim upon man's
chivalry, content to be nothing--only to be near him.
If such a life could have been--the life that poets have imagined for
despairing love! It was less than a hundred years since handsome Mrs.
Southwell followed Sir Robert Dudley to Italy, disguised as a page. But
the age of romance was past. The modern world had only laughter for such
That revelation of Hyacinth's jealousy had brought matters to a crisis.
Something must be done, Angela told herself, and quickly, to set her
right with her sister, and in her own esteem. She had to choose between a
loveless marriage and the Convent. By accepting one or the other she must
prove that she was not the slave of a dishonourable love.
Marriage or the Convent? It had been easy, contemplating the step from a
distance, to choose the Convent. But when she thought of it, to-night, amid
the exquisite beauty of these woods, with the moonlit valley lying at her
feet, the winding streams reflecting that silvery light, or veiled in a
pale haze--to-night, in the liberty and loveliness of the earth, the vision
of Convent walls filled her with a shuddering horror. To be shut in that
Flemish garden for ever; her life enclosed within the straight lines of
that long green alley leading to a dead wall, darkened over by flowerless
ivy. How witheringly dull the old life showed, looking back at it after
years of freedom and enjoyment, action and variety. No, no, no! She could
not bury herself alive, could not forego the liberty to wander in a wood
like this, to gaze upon scenes as beautiful as yonder valley, to read the
poets she loved, to see, perhaps, some day those romantic scenes which
she knew but as dreams--Florence, Vallombrosa--to follow the footsteps of
Milton, to see the Venice she had read of in Howell's Letters, to kneel at
the feet of the Holy Father, in the City of Cities. All these things would
be for ever forbidden to her if she chose the common escape from earthly
She thought of her whose example had furnished the theme of many a
discourse at the Convent, Mazarin's lovely niece, the Princess de Conti,
who, in the bloom of early womanhood, was awakened from the dream of this
life to the reality of Heaven, and had renounced the pleasures of the most
brilliant Court in the world for the severities of Port Royal. She thought
of that sublime heretic Ferrar, whose later existence was one long prayer.
Of how much baser a clay must she be fashioned when her too earthly heart
clung so fondly to the loveliness of earth, and shrank with aversion from
the prospect of a long life within those walls where her childhood had been
so peaceful and happy.
"How changed, how changed and corrupted this heart has become!" she
murmured, in her dejection, "when that life which was once my most ardent
desire now seems to me worse than the grave. Anything--any life of duty in
the world, rather than that living death."
She was in the garden next morning at six, after a sleepless night, and
she occupied herself till noon in going about among the cottagers carrying
those small comforts which she had been in the habit of taking them, and
listening patiently to those various distresses which they were very glad
to relate to her. She taught the children, and read to the sick, and
was able in this round of duties to keep her thoughts from dwelling too
persistently upon her own trouble. After the one o'clock dinner, at which
she offended old Reuben by eating hardly anything, she went for a woodland
ramble with her dogs, and it was near sunset when she returned to the
house, just in time to see two road-stained horses being led away from the
Sir John had come home. She found him in the dining parlour, sitting gloomy
and weary looking before the table where Reuben was arranging a hasty meal.
"I have eaten nothing upon the road, yet I have but a poor stomach for
your bacon-ham," he said, and then looked up at his daughter with a moody
glance, as she went towards him.
"Dear sir, we must try to coax your appetite when you have rested a little.
Let me unbuckle your spurs and pull off your boots, while Reuben fetches
your easiest shoes."
"Nay, child, that is man's work, not for such fingers as yours. The boots
are nowise irksome--'tis another kind of shoe that pinches, Angela."
She knelt down to unbuckle the spur-straps, and while on her knees she
"You look sad, sir. I fear you found ill news at London."
"I found such shame as never came before upon England, such confusion as
only traitors and profligates can know; men who have cheated and lied and
wasted the public money, left our fortresses undefended, our ships unarmed,
our sailors unpaid, half-fed, and mutinous; clamorous wives crying aloud in
the streets that their husbands should not fight and bleed for a King who
starved them. They have clapped the scoundrel who had charge of the Yard at
Chatham in the Tower--but will that mend matters? A scapegoat, belike, to
suffer for higher scoundrels. The mob is loudest against the Chancellor,
who I doubt is not to blame for our unreadiness, having little power of
late over the King. Oh, there has been iniquity upon iniquity, and men know
not whom most to blame--the venal idle servants, or the master of all."
"You mean that men blame his Majesty?"
"No, Angela. But when our ships were blazing at Chatham, and the Dutch
triumphing, the cry was 'Oh, for an hour of old Noll!' Charles has played
his cards so that he has made the loyalest hearts in England wish the
Brewer back again. They called him the Tiger of the Seas. We have no tigers
now, only asses and monkeys. Why, there was scarce a grain of sense left in
London. The beat of the drums calling out the train-bands seemed to have
stupefied the people. Everywhere madness and confusion. They have sunk
their richest argosies at Barking Creek to block the river; but the Dutch
break chains, ride over sunken ships, laugh our petty defences to scorn."
"Dear sir, this confusion cannot last."
"It will last as long as the world's history lasts. Our humiliation will
never be forgotten."
"But Englishmen will not look on idle. There must be brave men up in arms."
"Oh, there are brave men enough--Fairfax, Ingoldsby, Bethell, Norton. The
Presbyterians come to the front in our troubles. Your brother-in-law is
with Lord Middleton. There is no lack of officers; and regiments are being
raised. But our merchant-ships, which should be quick to help us, hang
back. Our Treasury is empty, and half the goldsmiths in London are
bankrupt. And our ships that are burnt, and our ships that are taken, will
not be conjured back again. The _Royal Charles_ carried off with insulting
triumph! Oh, child, it is not the loss that galls; it is the dishonour!"
He took a draught of claret out of the tankard which Angela placed at his
elbow, and she carved the ham for him, and persuaded him to eat.
"Is it the public misfortune that troubles you so sadly, sir?" she asked,
presently, when her father flung himself back in his chair with a heavy
"Nay, Angela, I have my peck of trouble without reckoning the ruin of my
country. But my back is broad. It can bear a burden as well as any."
"Do you count a disobedient daughter among your cares, sir?"
"Disobedient is too harsh a word. I told you I would never force your
inclinations. But I have an obstinate daughter, who has disappointed me,
and well-nigh broken my spirit."
"Your spirit shall not rest broken if my obedience can mend it, sir," she
said gently, dropping on her knees beside his chair.
"What! has that stony heart relented! Wilt thou marry him, sweetheart? Wilt
give me a son as well as a daughter, and the security that thou wilt be
safe and happy when I'm gone?"
"No one can be sure of happiness, father; it comes strangely, and goes we
know not why. But if it will make your heart easier, sir, and Denzil be
still of the same mind----"
"His mind his rock, dearest. He swore to me that he could never change. Ah,
love, you have made me happy! Let the fleet burn, the _Royal Charles_
fly Dutch colours. Here, in this quiet valley, there shall be a peaceful
household and united hearts. Angela, I love that youth! Fareham, with all
his rank and wealth, has never been so dear to me. That black visage
repels love. But Denzil's countenance is open as the day. I can say 'Nunc
Dimittis' with a light heart. I can trust Denzil Warner with my daughter's
"QUITE OUT OF FASHION."
Denzil received the good news by the hands of a mounted messenger in the
The Knight had written, "Ride--ride--ride!" in the Elizabethan style, on
the cover of his letter, which contained but two brief sentences--
"Womanlike, she has changed her mind. Come when thou wilt, dear son."
And the son-in-law-to-be lost not an hour. He was at the Manor before
night-fall. He was a member of the quiet household again, subservient to
his mistress in everything.
"There are some words that must needs be spoken before we are agreed,"
Angela said, when they found themselves alone for the first time, in the
garden, on the morning after his return, and when Denzil would fain have
taken her to his breast and ratified their betrothal with a kiss. "I think
you know as well as I do that it is my father's wish that has made me
"So long as you change not again, dear, I am of all men the happiest. Yes,
I know 'tis Sir John's wooing that won you, not mine. And that I have
still to conquer your heart, though your hand is promised me. Yet I do not
despair of being loved in as full measure as I love. My faith is strong in
the power of an honest affection."
"You may at least be sure of my honesty. I profess nothing but the desire
to be your true and obedient wife----"
"Obedient! You shall be my empress."
"No, no. I have no wish to rule. I desire only to make my father happy, and
you too, sir, if I can."
"Ah, my soul, that is so easy for you. You have but to let me live in your
dear company. I doubt I would rather be miserable with you than happy with
any other woman. Ill-use me if you will; play Zantippe, and I will be more
submissive than Socrates. But you are all mildness--perfect Christian,
perfect woman. You cannot miss being perfect as wife--and----"
Another word trembled on his lips; but he checked himself lest he should
offend, and the speech ended in a sob.
"My Angela, my angel!"
He took her to his heart, and kissed the fair brow, cold under his
passionate kisses. That word "angel" turned her to ice. It conjured back
the sound of a voice that it was sin to remember. Fareham had called her
so; not once, but many times, in their placid days of friendship, before
the fiery breath of passion had withered all the flowers in her earthly
paradise--before the knowledge of evil had clouded the brightness of the
A gentle peace reigned at the Manor after Angela's betrothal. Sir John was
happier than he had been since the days of his youth, before the coming
of that cloud no bigger than a man's hand, when John Hampden's stubborn
resistance of a thirty-shilling rate had brought Crown and People face to
face upon the burning question of Ship-money, and kindled the fire that was
to devour England. From the hour he left his young wife to follow the King
to Yorkshire Sir John's existence had known little of rest or of comfort,
or even of glory. He had fought on the losing side, and had missed the
fame of those who fell and took the rank of heroes by an untimely death.
Hardship and danger, wounds and sickness, straitened means and scanty fare,
had been his portion for three bitter years; and then had come a period of
patient service, of schemes and intrigues foredoomed to failure; of going
to and fro, from Jersey to Paris, from Paris to Ireland, from Ireland
to Cornwall, journeying hither and thither at the behest of a shifty,
irresolute man, or a passionate, imprudent woman, as the case might be; now
from the King to the Queen, now from the Queen to this or that ally; futile
errands, unskilful combinations, failure on every hand, till the last fatal
journey, on which he was an unwilling attendant, the flight from Hampton
Court to Titchfield, when the fated King broke faith with his enemies in an
Foreign adventure had followed English hardships, and the soldier had
been tossed on the stormy sea of European warfare. He had been graciously
received at the French Court, but only to feel himself a stranger there,
and to have his English clothes and English accent laughed at by Gramont
and Bussy, and the accomplished St. Evremond, and the frivolous herd of
their imitators; to see even the Queen, for whom he had spent his
last jacobus, smile behind her fan at his bevues, and whisper to her
sister-in-law while he knelt to kiss the little white hand that had led a
King to ruin. Everywhere the stern Malignant had found himself outside the
circle of the elect. At the Hotel de Rambouillet, in the splendid houses of
the newly built Place Royale, in the salons of Duchesses, and the taverns
of courtly roysterers and drunken poets, at Cormier's, or at the Pine
Apple, in the Rue de la Juiverie, where it was all the better for a
Christian gentleman not to understand the talk of the wits that flashed and
drank there. Everywhere he had been a stranger and aloof. It was only under
canvas, in danger and privation, that he lost the sense of being one
too many in the world. There John Kirkland found his level, shoulder to
shoulder with Conde and Turenne. The stout Cavalier was second to no
soldier in Louis' splendid army; was of the stamp of an earlier race even,
better inured to hardship than any save that heroic Prince, the Achilles
of his day, who to the graces of a modern courtier joined the temper of an
His daughter Hyacinth had given him the utmost affection which such a
nature could give; but it was the affection of a trained singing-bird, or
a pug-nosed spaniel; and the father, though he admired her beauty, and was
pleased with her caresses, was shrewd enough to perceive the lightness
of her disposition and the shallowness of her mind. He rejoiced in her
marriage with a man of Fareham's strong character.
"I have married thee to a husband who will know how to rule a wife," he
told her on the night of her wedding. "You have but to obey and to be
happy; for he is rich enough to indulge all your fancies, and will not
complain if you waste the gold that would pay a company of foot on the
decoration of your poor little person."
"The tone in which you speak of my poor little person, sir, can but remind
me how much I need the tailor and the milliner," answered Hyacinth,
dropping her favourite curtsy, which she was ever ready to practise at the
"Nay, petite chatte, you know I think you the loveliest creature at Saint
Germain or the Louvre, far surpassing in beauty the Cardinal's niece, who
has managed to set young Louis' heart throbbing with a boyish passion. But
I doubt you bestow too much care on the cherishing of a gift so fleeting."
"You have said the word, sir. 'Tis because it is so fleeting I must needs
take care of my beauty. We poor women are like the butterflies and the
roses. We have as brief a summer. You men, who value us only for our
outward show, should pardon some vanity in creatures so ephemeral."
"Ephemeral scarce applies to a sex which owns such an example as your
grandmother, who has lived to reckon her servants among the grandsons of
her earliest lovers."
"Not lived, sir! No woman lives after thirty. She can but exist, and dream
that she is still admired. La Marquise has been dead for the last twenty
years, but she won't own it. Ah, sir, c'est un triste supplice to _have
been_! I wonder how those poor ghosts can bear that earthly purgatory which
they call old age? Look at Madame de Sable, par exemple, once a beauty, now
only a tradition. And Queen Anne! Old people say she was beautiful, and
that Buckingham risked being torn by wild horses--like Ravaillac--only
to kiss her hand by stealth in a moonlit garden; and would have plunged
England in war but for an excuse to come back to Paris. Who would go to war
for Anne's haggard countenance nowadays?"
Even in Lady Fareham's household the Cavalier soon began to fancy himself
an inhabitant too much; a dull, grey ghost from a tragical past. He could
not keep himself from talking of the martyred King, and those bitter years
through which he had followed his master's sinking fortunes. He told
stories of York and of Beverley; of the scarcity of cash which reduced his
Majesty's Court to but one table; of that bitter affront at Coventry; of
the evil omens that had marked the raising of the Standard on the hill at
Nottingham, and filled superstitious minds with dark forebodings, reminding
old men of that sad shower of rain that fell when Charles was proclaimed at
Whitehall, on the day of his accession, and of the shock of earthquake on
his coronation day; of Edgehill and Lindsey's death; of the profligate
conduct of the Cavalier regiments, and the steady, dogged force of their
psalm-singing adversaries; of Queen Henrietta's courage, and beauty, and
wilfulness, and her fatal influence upon an adoring husband.
"She wanted to be all that Buckingham had been," said Sir John, "forgetting
that Buckingham was the King's evil genius."
That lively and eminently artificial society of the Rue de Touraine soon
wearied of Sir John's reminiscences. King Charles's execution had receded
into the dim grey of history. He might as well have told them anecdotes
of Cinq Mars, or of the great Henri, or of Moses or Abraham. Life went
on rapid wheels in patrician Paris. They had Conde to talk about, and
Mazarin's numerous nieces, and the opera, that new importation from Italy,
which the Cardinal was bringing into fashion; while in the remote past of
half a dozen years back the Fronde was the only interesting subject, and
even that was worn threadbare; the adventures of the Duchess, the conduct
of the Prince in prison, the intrigues of Cardinal and Queen, Mademoiselle,
yellow-haired Beaufort, duels of five against five--all--all these were
ancient history as compared with young Louis and his passion for Marie de
Mancini, and the scheming of her wily uncle to marry all his nieces to
reigning princes or embryo kings.
And then the affectations and conceits of that elegant circle, the sonnets
and madrigals, the "bouts-rimes," the practical jokes, the logic-chopping
and straw-splitting of those ultra-fine intellects, the romances where the
personages of the day masqueraded under Greek or Roman or Oriental aliases,
books written in a flowery language which the Cavalier did not understand,
and full of allusions that were dark to him; while not to know and
appreciate those master-works placed him outside the pale.
He rejoiced in escaping from that overcharged atmosphere to the tavern, to
the camp, anywhere. He followed the exiled Stuarts in their wanderings,
paid his homage to the Princess of Orange, roamed from scene to scene, a
stranger and one too many wherever he went.
Then came the hardest blow of all--the chilling disillusion that awaited
many of Charles's faithful friends, who were not of such political
importance as to command their recompense. Neglect and forgetfulness were
Sir John Kirkland's portion; and for him and for such as he that caustic
definition of the Act of Indemnity was a hard and cruel truth. It was an
Act of Indemnity for the King's enemies and of oblivion for his friends.
Sir John's spirits had hardly recovered from the bitterness of disappointed
affection when he came back to the old home, though his chagrin was seven
years old. But now, in his delight at the alliance with Denzil Warner, he
seemed to have renewed his lease of cheerfulness and bodily vigour. He rode
and walked about the lanes and woods with erect head and elastic limbs. He
played bowls with Denzil in the summer evenings. He went fishing with his
daughter and her sweetheart. He revelled in the simple rustic life, and
told them stories of his boyhood, when James was King, and many a queer
story of that eccentric monarch and of the rising star, George Villiers.
"Ah, what a history that was!" he exclaimed. "His mother trained him as if
with a foreknowledge of that star-like ascendency. He was schooled to shine
and dazzle, to excel all compeers in the graces men and women admire. I
doubt she never thought of the mind inside him, or cared whether he had a
heart or a lump of marble behind his waist-band. He was taught neither to
think nor to pity--only to shine; to be quick with his tongue in half a
dozen languages, with his sword after half a dozen modes of fence. He could
kill his man in the French, or the Italian, or the Spanish manner. He was
cosmopolitan in the knowledge of evil. He had every device that can make a
man brilliant and dangerous. He mounted every rung of the ladder, leaping
from step to step. He ascended, swift as a shooting star, from plain
country gentleman to the level of princes. And he expired with an
ejaculation, astonished to find himself mortal, slain in a moment by the
thrust of a ten-penny knife. I remember as if it were yesterday how men
looked and spoke when the news came to London, and how some said this
murder would be the saving of King Charles. I know of one man at least who
"Who was he, sir?" asked Denzil.
"He who had the greatest mind among Englishmen--Thomas Wentworth.
Buckingham had held him at a distance from the King, and his strong
passionate temper was seething with indignation at being kept aloof by
that silken sybarite--an impotent General, a fatal counsellor. After the
Favourite's death there came a time of peace and plenty. The pestilence had
passed, the war was over. Charles was happy with his Henriette and their
lovely children. Wentworth was in Ireland. The Parliament House stood still
and empty, doors shut, swallows building under the eaves. I look back, and
those placid years melt into each other like one long summer. And then,
again, as 'twere yesterday, I hear Hampden's drums and fifes in the
lanes, and see the rebels' flag with that hateful legend, 'Vestigia nulla
retrorsum,' and Buckinghamshire peasants are under arms, and the King and
his people have begun to hate and fear each other."
"None foresaw that the war would last so long or end in murder, I doubt,
sir," said Angela.
"Nay, child; we who were loyal thought to see that rabble withered by the
breath of kingly nostrils. A word should have brought them to the dust."
"There might be so easy a victory, perhaps, sir, from a King who knew how
to speak the right word at the right moment, how to comply graciously with
a just demand, and how to be firm in a righteous denial," replied Denzil;
"but with Charles a stammering speech was but the outward expression of a
wavering mind. He was a man who never listened to an appeal, but always
yielded to a threat, were it only loud enough."
The wedding was to be soon. Marriages were patched up quickly in the
light-hearted sixties. And here there was nothing to wait for. Sir John had
found Denzil compliant on every minor question, and willing to make his
home at the Manor during his mother's lifetime.
"The old lady would never stomach a Papist daughter-in-law," said Sir John;
and Denzil was fain to confess that Lady Warner would not easily reconcile
herself with Angela's creed, though she could not fail of loving Angela
"My daughter would have neither peace nor liberty under a Puritan's roof,"
Sir John said; "and I should have neither son nor daughter, and should be a
loser by my girl's marriage. You shall be as much master here, Denzil, as
if this were your own house--which it will be when I have moved to my last
billet. Give me a couple of stalls for my roadsters, and kennel room for my
dogs, and I want no more. You and Angela may introduce as many new fashions
as you like; dine at two o'clock, and sip your unwholesome Indian drink of
an evening. The fine ladies in Paris were beginning to take tea when I was
last there, though by the faces they made over the stuff it might have been
poison. I can smoke my pipe in the chimney-corner, and look on and admire
at the new generation. I shall not feel myself one too many at your
fireside, as I used sometimes in the Rue de Touraine, when those strutting
Gallic cocks were quizzing me."
* * * * *
There were clouds of dust and a clatter of hoofs again in front of the
floriated iron gate; but this time it was not the Honourable Henriette who
came tripping along the gravel path on two-inch heels, but my Lady Fareham,
who walked languidly, with the assistance of a gold-headed cane, and who
looked pale and thin in her apple-green satin gown and silver-braided
She, too, came attended by a second coach, which was filled by her
ladyship's French waiting-woman, Mrs. Lewin, and a pile of boxes and
"I'll wager that in the rapture and romance of your sweethearting you have
not given a thought to petticoats and mantuas," she said, after she had
embraced her sister, who was horrified at the sight of that painted
harridan from London.
Angela blushed at those words, "rapture and romance," knowing how little
there had been of either in her thoughts, or in Denzil's sober courtship.
Romance! Alas! there had been but one romance in her life, and that a
guilty one, which she must ever remember with remorse.
"Come now, confess you have not a gown ordered."
"I have gowns enough and to spare. Oh, sister! have you come so far to talk
of gowns? And that odious woman too! What brought her here?" Angela asked,
with more temper than she was wont to show.
"My sisterly kindness brought her. You are an ungrateful hussy for looking
vexed when I have come a score of miles through the dust to do you a
"Ah, dearest, I am grateful to you for coming. But, alas! you are looking
pale and thin. Heaven forbid that you have been indisposed, and we in
ignorance of your suffering."
"No, I am well enough, though every one assures me I look ill; which is but
a civil mode of telling me I am growing old and ugly."
"Nay, Hyacinth, the former we must all become, with time; the latter you
will never be."
"Your servant, Sir Denzil, has taught you to pay antique compliments. Well,
now we will talk business. I had occasion to send for Lewin--my toilet was
in a horrid state of decay; and then it seemed to me, knowing your foolish
indifference, that even your wedding gown would not be chosen unless I
saw to it. So here is Lewin with Lyons and Genoa silks of the very latest
patterns. She has but just come from Paris, and is full of Parisian modes
and Court scandals. The King posted off to Versailles directly after his
mother's death, and has not returned to the Louvre since. He amuses
himself by spending millions on building, and making passionate love to
Mademoiselle la Valliere, who encourages him by pretending an excessive
modesty, and exaggerates every favour by penitential tears. I doubt his
attachment to so melancholy a mistress will hardly last a lifetime. She is
not beautiful; she has a halting gait; and she is no more virtuous than any
other young woman who makes a show of resistance to enhance the merit of
Hyacinth prattled all the way to the parlour, Mrs. Lewin and the
waiting-woman following, laden with parcels.
"Queer, dear old hovel!" she exclaimed, sinking languidly upon a tabouret,
and fanning herself exhaustedly, while the mantua-maker opened her boxes,
and laid out her sample breadths of richly decorated brocade, or silver and
gold enwrought satin. "How well I remember being whipped over my horn-book
in this very room! And there is the bowling green where I used to race with
the Italian greyhound my grandmother brought me from Paris. I look back,
and it seems a dream of some other child running about in the sunshine. It
is so hard to believe that joyous little being--who knew not the meaning of
"Why that sigh, sister? Surely none ever had less cause for heart-ache than
"Have I not cause? Not when my glass tells me youth is gone, and beauty
is waning? Not when there is no one in this wide world who cares a straw
whether I am handsome or hideous? I would as lief be dead as despised and
"Sorella mia, questa donna ti ascolta," murmured Angela; "come and look at
the old gardens, sister, while Mrs. Lewin spreads out her wares. And pray
consider, madam," turning to the mantua-maker, "that those peacock purples
and gold embroideries have no temptations for me. I am marrying a country
gentleman, and am to lead a country life. My gowns must be such as will
not be spoilt by a walk in dusty lanes, or a visit to a farm-labourer's
"Eh, gud, your ladyship, do not tell me that you would bury so much beauty
among sheep and cows, and odious ploughmen's wives and dairy-women. A month
or so of rustic life in summer between Epsom and Tunbridge Wells may be
well enough, to rest your beauty--without patches or a French head--out of
sight of your admirers. But to live in the country! Only a jealous husband
could ever propose more than an annual six weeks of rustic seclusion to a
wife under sixty. Lord Chesterfield was considered as cruel for taking his
Countess to the rocks and ravines of Derbyshire as Sir John Denham for
poisoning his poor lady."
"Chut! tu vas un peu trop loin, Lewin!" remonstrated Lady Fareham.
"But, in truly, your ladyship, when I hear Mrs. Kirkland talk of a husband
who would have her waste her beauty upon clod-polls and dairy-maids, and
never wear a mantua worth looking at----"
"I doubt my husband will be guided by his own likings rather than by Mrs.
Lewin's tastes and opinions," said Angela, with a stately curtsy, which was
designed to put the forward tradeswoman in her place, and which took that
personage's breath away.
"There never was anything like the insolence of a handsome young woman
before she has been educated by a lover," she said to her ladyship's
Frenchwoman, with a vindictive smile and scornful shrug of bloated
shoulders, when the sisters had left the parlour. "But wait till her first
intrigue, and then it is 'My dearest Lewin, wilt thou make me everlastingly
beholden to thee by taking this letter--thou knowest to whom?' Or, in a
flood of tears, 'Lewin, you are my only friend--and if you cannot find me
some good and serviceable woman who would give me a home where I can hide
from the cruel eye of the world, I must take poison.' No insolence then,
mark you, Madame Hortense!"
"This demoiselle is none of your sort," Hortense said. "You must not judge
English ladies by your maids of honour. Celles la sont des drolesses, sans
foi ni loi."
"Well, if she thinks I am going to make up linsey woolsey, or Norwich
drugget, she will find her mistake. I never courted the custom of little
gentlemen's wives, with a hundred a year for pin-money. If I am to do
anything for this stuck-up peacock, Lady Fareham must give me the order. I
am no servant of Madame Kirkland."
* * * * *
Alone in the garden, the sisters embraced again, Lady Fareham with a
fretful tearfulness, as of one whose over strung nerves were on the verge
"There is something that preys upon your spirits, dearest," Angela said
"Something! A hundred things. I am at cross purposes with life. But I
should have been worse had you been obstinate and still refused this
"Why should that affect you, Hyacinth?" asked her sister, with a sudden
"Chi lo sa? One has fancies! But my dearest sister has been wise in good
time, and you will be the happiest wife in England; for I believe your
Puritan is a saintly person, the very opposite of our Court sparks, who are
the most incorrigible villains. Ah, sweet, if you heard the stories Lewin
tells me--even of that young Rochester--scarce out of his teens. And the
Duke--not a jot better than the King--and with so much less grace in his
iniquity. Well, you will be married at the Chapel Royal, and spend your
wedding night at Fareham House. We will have a great supper. His Majesty
will come, of course. He owes us that much civility."
"Hyacinth, if you would make me happy, let me be married in our dear
mother's oratory, by your chaplain. Sure, dearest, you know I have never
taken kindly to Court splendours."
"Have you not? Why, you shone and sparkled like a star, that last night you
were ever at Whitehall, Henri sitting close beside you. 'Twas the night
he took ill of a fever. Was it a fever? I have wondered sometimes whether
there was not a mystery of attempted murder behind that long sickness."
"A deadly duel with a man who hated him. Is not that an attempt at murder
on the part of him who deliberately provokes the quarrel? Well, it is past,
and he is gone. For all the colour of the world I live in, there might
never have been any such person as Henri de Malfort."
Her airy laugh ended in a sob, which she tried to stifle, but could not.
"Hyacinth, Hyacinth, why will you persist in being miserable when you have
so little cause for sadness?"
"Have I not cause? Am I not growing old, and robbed of the only friend who
brought gaiety into my life; who understood my thoughts and valued me? A
traitor, I know--like the rest of them. They are all traitors. But he would
have been true had I been kinder, and trusted him."
"Hyacinth, you are mad! Would you have had him more your friend? He was
too near as it was. Every thought you gave him was an offence against your
husband. Would you have sunk as low as those shameless women the King
"Sunk--low? Why, those women are on a pinnacle of
fame--courted--flattered--poetised--painted. They will be famous for
centuries after you and I are forgotten. There is no such thing as shame
nowadays, except that it is shameful to have done nothing to be ashamed of.
I have wasted my life, Angela. There was not a woman at the Louvre who had
my complexion, nor one who could walk a coranto with more grace. Yet I have
consented to be a nobody at two Courts. And now I am growing old, and my
poor painted face shocks me when I chance on my reflection by daylight; and
there is nothing left for me--nothing."
"Your husband, sister!"
"Sister, do not mock me! You know how much Fareham is to me. We were chosen
for each other, and fancied we were in love for the first few years, while
he was so often called away from me, that his coming back made a festival,
and renewed affection. He came crimson from battles and sieges; and I was
proud of him, and called him my hero. But after the treaty of the Pyrenees
our passion cooled, and he grew too much the school-master. And when he
recovered of the contagion, he had recovered of any love-sickness he ever
had for me!"
"Ah, sister, you say these things without thinking them. His lordship needs
but some sign of affection on your part to be as fond a husband as ever he
"You can answer for him, I'll warrant"
"And there are other claims upon your love--your children."
"Henriette, who is nearly as tall as I am, and thinks herself handsomer and
cleverer than ever I was. George, who is a lump of selfishness, and cares
more for his ponies and peregrines than for father and mother. I tell you
there is nothing left for me, except fine houses and carriages; and to show
my fading beauty dressed in the latest mode at twilight in the Ring, and to
startle people from the observation of my wrinkles by the boldness of my
patches. I was the first to wear a coach and horses across my forehead--in
London, at least. They had these follies in Paris three years ago."
"And thou wilt let me arrange thy wedding after my own fancy, wilt thou
not, ma tres chere?"
"You forget Denzil's hatred of finery."
"But the wedding is the bride's festival. The bridegroom hardly counts.
Nay, love, you need fear no immodest fooling when you bid good night to the
company; nor shall there be any scuffling for garters at the door of your
chamber. There was none of that antique nonsense when Lady Sandwich married
her daughter. All vulgar fashions of coarse old Oliver's day have gone to
the ragbag of worn-out English customs. We were so coarse a nation, till we
learnt manners in exile. Let me have my own way, dearest. It will amuse me,
and wean me from melancholic fancies."
"Then, indeed, love, thou shalt have thy way in all particulars."
After this Lady Fareham was in haste to return to the house in order to
choose the wedding gown; and here in the panelled parlour they found the
two gentlemen, with the dust of the road and the warmth of the noonday sun
upon them, newly returned from Aylesbury, where they had ridden in the
freshness of the early morning to choose a team of plough-horses at
the fair; and who were more disconcerted than gratified at finding the
dinner-parlour usurped by Mrs. Lewin, Madame Hortense, and an array of
finery that made the room look like a stall in the Exchange.
It was on the stroke of one, yet there were no signs of dinner. Sir John
and Sir Denzil were both sharp set after their ride, and were looking by no
means kindly on Mrs. Lewin and her wares when Hyacinth and Angela appeared
upon the scene.
"Nothing could happen luckier," said Lady Fareham, when she had saluted
Denzil, and embraced her father with "Pish, sir! how you smell of clover
and new-mown grass! I vow you have smothered my mantua with dust."
Father and sweetheart were called upon to assist in choosing the wedding
gown--a somewhat empty compliment on the part of Lady Fareham, since she
would not hear of the simple canary brocade which Denzil selected, and
which Mrs. Lewin protested was only good enough to make his lady
a bed-gown; or of the pale grey atlas which her father considered
suitable--since, indeed, she would have nothing but a white satin, powdered
with silver fleurs de luces, which she remarked, _en passant_, would
have become the Grande Mademoiselle, had she but obtained her cousin's
permission to cast herself away on Lauzun.
"Dear sister, can you consider a fabric fit for a Bourbon Princess a
becoming gown for me?" remonstrated Angela.
"Yes, child; white and silver will better become thee than poor Louise, who
has no more complexion left than I have. She was in her heyday when she
held the Bastille, and when she and Beaufort were two of the most popular
people in Paris. She has made herself a laughing-stock since then. That is
settled, Lewin"--with a nod to the milliner--"the silver fleurs de luces
for the wedding mantua. And now be quick with your samples."
All Angela's remonstrances were as vain to-day as they had been on the
occasion of her first acquaintance with Mrs. Lewin. The excitement of
discussing and selecting the finery she loved affected Lady Fareham's
spirits like a draught of saumur. She was generous by nature, extravagant
by long habit.
"Sure it would be a hard thing if I could not give you your wedding
clothes, when you are marrying the man I chose for you," she protested.
"The cherry-coloured farradine, by all means, Lewin; 'tis the very shade
for my sister's fair skin. Indeed, Denzil"--nodding at him, as he stood
watching them, with that hopelessly bewildered air of a man in a milliner's
shop--"I have been your best friend from the beginning, and, but for me,
you might never have won your sweetheart to listen to you. Mazarine hoods
are as ancient as the pyramids, Lewin. Pr'ythee show us something newer."
It was late in the evening when the two coaches left the Manor gate.
Hyacinth had been in no haste to return to the Abbey. There was nobody
there who wanted her, she protested, and there would be a moon after nine
o'clock, and she had servants enough to take care of her on the road; so
Mrs. Lewin and her ladyship's woman were entertained in the steward's
room, where Reuben held forth upon the splendour that had prevailed in his
master's house before the troubles--and where the mantua-maker ate and
drank all she could get, and dozed and yawned through the old man's
The afternoon was spent more pleasantly by the quality, who sat about in
the sunny garden, or sauntered by the fish pond and fed the carp--and took
a dish of the Indian drink which the sisters loved, in the pergola at the
end of the grass walk.
Hyacinth now affected a passion for the country, and quoted the late Mr.
Cowley in praise of rusticity.
"Oh, how delicious is this woodland valley," she cried.
"'Here let me, careless and unthoughtful lying,
Hear the soft winds, above me plying,
With all their wanton boughs dispute.'
Poor Cowley, he might well love the country, for he was shamefully treated
in town--a devoted servant to bankrupt royalty for all the best years of
his life, and fobbed off with a compliment when the King came into power.
Ah me, 'tis an ill world we live in, and London is the most hateful spot in
it," she concluded, with a sigh.
"And yet you will have me married nowhere else, sister?"
"Oh, for a wedding or a christening one must have a crowd of fine people.
It would go about that Lady Fareham was quite out of fashion if I were
content to see only ploughmen and dairy-maids, and a petty gentleman or two
with their ill-dressed wives, at my sister's marriage. London is the only
decent place--after Paris--to live in; but the country is a peacefuller
place in which to die."
A heart-breaking sigh emphasised the sentence, and Angela scrutinised her
sister's face with increased concern.
"Dear love, I fear you are hiding something from me; and that you are
seriously indisposed," she said earnestly.
"If I am I do not know it. But when one is weary of living there is only
one sensible thing left to do--if Providence will but be kind and help one
to do it. I am not for dagger or poison, or for a plunge in deep water. But
to fade away in a gentle disease--a quiet ebbing of the vital stream--is
the luckiest thing that can befall one who is tired of life."
Alarmed at hearing her sister talk in this melancholy strain, and still
more alarmed by the change in her looks, sunken cheeks, hectic flush,
fever-bright eyes, Angela entreated Lady Fareham to stay at the Manor, and
be nursed and cared for.
"Oh, I know your skill in nursing, and your power over a sick person,"
Hyacinth interjected scornfully, and then in the next moment apologised for
the little spurt of retrospective jealousy.
"Stay with us, love, and let us make you happier than you are at Chilton,"
pleaded Angela; but Hyacinth, who had been protesting that nobody wanted
her, now declared that she could not leave home, and recited a list of
duties, social and domestic.
"I shall not have half an hour to spare until I go to London next week to
prepare for the wedding," she said. The date had been fixed while they sat
at dinner; Sir John and his elder daughter settling the day, while Denzil
assented with radiant smiles, and Angela sat by in pale silence, submissive
to the will of others. They were to be married on a Thursday, July 19, and
it was now the end of June--little more than a fortnight's interval in
which to meditate upon the beginning of a new life.
Mrs. Lewin promised the white and silver mantua, and as many of the new
clothes as a supernatural address, industry, and obligingness, could
produce within the time. Hyacinth grew more lively after supper, and parted
from her father and sister in excellent spirits; but her haggard face
haunted Angela in troubled dreams all that night, and she thought of her
with anxiety during the next few days, and most of all upon one long sultry
day, the 4th of July, which was the third day she had spent in unbroken
solitude since her father and Denzil had ridden away in the dim early
morning, while the pastures were veiled in summer haze, on the first stage
of a journey to London, hoping, with a long rest between noon and evening,
to ride thirty-seven miles before night.
They were to consult with a learned London lawyer, and to execute the
marriage settlement, Sir John vastly anxious about this business, in his
ignorance of law and distrust of lawyers. They were to stay in London only
long enough to transact their business, and would then return post-haste to
the Manor; but as they were to ride their own horses all the way, and as
lawyers are notoriously slow, Angela had been told not to expect them till
the fourth evening after their departure. In her lonely rambles that long
summer day, with her spaniel Ganymede, and her father's favourite pointer,
for her only companions, Angela's thoughts dwelt ever on the past. Of the
future--even that so near future of her marriage--she thought hardly at
all. That future had been disposed of by others. Her fate had been settled
for her; and she was told that by her submission she would make those she
loved happy. Her father would have the son he longed for, and would be
sure of her faithful devotion till the end of his days--or of hers, should