Part 8 out of 9
untimely death intervene. Hyacinth's foolish jealousy would be dispelled by
the act which gave her sister's honour into a husband's custody. And for
him, that presumptuous lover who had taken so little pains to hide his
wicked passion, if in any audacious hour he had dared to believe her guilty
of reciprocating his love, that insolent suspicion would be answered at
once and for ever by her marriage with Denzil--Denzil who was Fareham's
junior by fifteen years, his superior in every advantage of person, as
she told herself with a bitter smile; for even while she thought of that
superiority--the statuesque regularity of feature, the clear colouring of
a complexion warmed with the glow of health, the deep blue of large
well-opened eyes, the light free carriage of one who had led an active
country life--even while she thought of Denzil, another face and figure
flashed upon her memory--rugged and dark, the forehead deeper lined than
years justified, the proud eye made sombre by the shadow of the projecting
brow, the cheek sunken, the shoulders bent as if under the burden of
O God! this was the face she loved. The only face that had ever touched the
springs of joy and pain. It was nearly half a year since she had seen him.
Their meetings in the future need be of the rarest. She knew that Denzil
regarded him with a distrust which made friendship out of the question; and
it would be her duty to keep as far aloof from that old time as possible.
Family meetings there must be, considering the short distance between
Chilton and the Manor, feastings and junketings in company once or twice in
the summer, lest it should be thought Sir John and his lordship were ill
friends. But Angela knew that in any such social gathering, sitting at the
overloaded board, amid the steam of rich viands, and the noise of many
voices, she and Fareham would be as far apart as if the Indian Ocean rolled
Once, and very soon, they must meet face to face; and he would take her
hand in greeting, and would kiss her on the lips as she stood before him in
her wedding finery, that splendour of white and silver which would provoke
him to scornful wonder at her trivial pleasure in sumptuous clothes. Thus
once they must meet. Her heart thrilled at the thought. He had so often
shunned her, taking such obvious trouble to keep his distance; but he could
hardly absent himself from her wedding. The scandal would be too great.
Well, she had accepted her fate, and this dull aching misery must be lived
through somehow; and neither her father nor Denzil must ever have occasion
to suspect her unhappiness.
"Oh, gracious Mary, Mother of God, help and sustain me in my sorrow! Guard
and deliver me from sinful thoughts. What are my fanciful griefs to thy
great sorrows, which thou didst endure with holy patience? Subdue and bend
me to obedience and humility. Let me be an affectionate daughter, a dutiful
wife, a friend and comforter to my poor neighbours."
So, and with many such prayers she struggled against the dominion of evil,
kneeling meekly in the leafy stillness of that deep beechwood, where no
human eye beheld her devotions. So in the long solitude of the summer day
she held commune with heaven, and fought against that ever-recurring memory
of past happiness, that looking back to the joys and emotions of those
placid hours at Chilton Abbey, before the faintest apprehension of evil had
shadowed her friendship with Fareham. Not to look back; not to remember
and regret. That was the struggle in which the intense abstraction of
the believer, lifting the mind to heaven, alone could help her. Long and
fervent were her prayers in that woodland sanctuary where she made her
pious retreat; nor was her sister forgotten in those prayers, which
included much earnest supplication for the welfare here and hereafter
of that lighter soul for whom she had ever felt a protecting and almost
maternal love. Years counted for very little in the relations between these
The day wore to its close--the most solemn day in Angela's life since that
which she had spent in the Reverend Mother's death-chamber, kneeling in the
faint yellow glow of the tall wax-candles, in a room from which daylight
was excluded. She remembered the detachment of her mind from all earthly
interests as she knelt beside that death-bed, and how easily her thoughts
had mounted heavenward; while now her love clung to this sinful earth. How
had she changed for the worse, how was she sunk from the holy aspirations
of that time!
Angela had eaten her lonely supper, and was sitting at her embroidery frame
between nine and ten, while the sounds of bolts and bars in the hall and
corridors, and old Reuben's voice hectoring the maids, told her that the
servants were closing the house before going to bed. Reuben would be coming
to her presently, no doubt, to remind her of the lateness of the hour,
wanting to carry her candle to her chamber, and as it were to see her
safely disposed of before he went to his garret. She meant, on this
occasion, to resist his friendly tyranny, having so little inclination for
sleep, and hoping to find peace of mind and distraction in this elaborate
embroidery of gold thread and many-coloured silks, which was destined to
adorn her father's person, on the facings of a new-fashioned doublet.
Suddenly, as she bent over the candle to scrutinize the shading of her
silks, the hollow sound of hoofs broke upon the silence, and in a minute
afterwards a bell rang loudly.
Who could it be at such an hour? Her father, no doubt; no one else. He had
hurried his business through, and returned a day earlier than he had hoped.
Or could it be that he had fallen sick in London, and Denzil had come to
tell her ill news? Or was it a messenger from her sister? She had time to
contemplate several evil contingencies while she stood in the hall watching
Reuben withdraw various bolts and bars.
The door swung back at last, and she saw a man in high-riding boots and
slouched hat standing on the threshold, while in the moonlight behind him
she could distinguish a mounted groom holding the bridle of a led horse, as
well as the horse from which the visitor had just dismounted.
The face that looked at her from the doorway was the face which had haunted
her with cruel persistency through that long day, chaining her thoughts to
Fareham stood looking at her for a few moments, deadly pale, while she
was collecting her senses, trying to understand this most unlooked-for
presence. Why was he here? Ah, no doubt, a messenger of evil.
"Oh, sir, my sister is ill!" she cried; "I read sorrow in your
face--seriously ill--dangerously? Speak, my lord, for pity's sake!"
"Yes, she is ill."
"But very ill? Oh, I feared, I feared when I saw her that there was
something amiss. Has she sent you to fetch me?"
"Yes; you are wanted."
"Reuben, I must set out this instant. Order the coach to be got ready. And
Betty must go with me."
"You will need no coach, Angela. Nor is there time to spare for any such
creeping conveyance. I have brought Zephyr. You remember how you loved him.
He is swift, and gentle as the wind after which we named him; sure of foot,
easy to ride. The roads are good after yesterday's rain, and the moon will
last us most of our way. We shall be at Chilton in two hours. Put on your
coat and hat. Indeed, there is no time to be lost."
"Do you mean that she may die before I can reach her?"
"I know not," stamping his foot impatiently. "Fate holds the keys. But you
had best waste no time on questions."
His manner was one of command, and he seemed to apprehend no possibility
of hesitation on her part. Reuben ran to his pantry, and came back with a
tankard of wine, which he offered to the visitor with tremulous respect,
almost ready to kneel.
"Our best Burgundy, my lord. Your lordship must be dry after your long
ride; and if your lordship would care to sup, there is good picking on last
Monday's chine, and a capon from madam's supper scarce touched with the
"Nothing, I thank you, friend. There is no time for gluttony."
Reuben, pressing the tankard upon him, he drank some wine with an automatic
air, and still stood with his eyes fixed on Angela's pallid countenance,
waiting her decision.
"Are you coming?" he asked.
"Does she want me? Has she asked for me? Oh, for God's sake, my lord, tell
me more! Is she dangerously ill? Have the doctors given her over?"
"No. But she is in a bad way. And you--you--you--are wanted. Will you come?
Ay or no?"
"Yes. It is my duty to go to her. But when my father and Denzil come back
to-morrow, Reuben must be able to tell them why I went; and the nature
of my sister's illness. Were it not so serious that there is no time for
hesitation, it would ill become me to leave this house in my father's
He gave his head a curious jerk at Denzil's name, as if he had been stung.
"Yes, I will explain; I can make all clear to this gentleman here while you
put on your cloak. Bring the black to the door," he called to his man.
"Will not your lordship bait your horses before you start?" Reuben asked
"No time, fellow. There is no time. How often must I tell you so?" retorted
Reuben's village breeding had given him an exaggerated respect for
aristocracy. He had grown up in the midst of small country gentlemen,
rural squires, among whom the man with three thousand a year in land was a
magnate, and there had never been more than one nobleman resident within a
day's ride of the Manor Moat. To Reuben, therefore, a peer was like a god;
and he would have no more questioned Lord Fareham's will than a disciple of
Hobbes would have imputed injustice to Kings.
Angela returned in a few minutes, having changed her silken gown for a neat
cloth riding-skirt and close-fitting hood. She carried nothing with her,
being assured that her sister's wardrobe would be at her disposal, and
having no mind to spend a minute more in preparation than was absolutely
necessary. Brief as her toilet was, she had time to consider Lord Fareham's
countenance and manner, the cold distance of his address, and to scorn
herself for having thought of him in her reveries that day as loving her
always and till death. It was far better so. The abyss that parted them
could not yawn too wide. She put a stern restraint upon herself, so that
there should be nothing hysterical in her manner, lest her fears about her
sister's health should be mistaken for agitation at his presence. She stood
beside the horse, straight and firm, with her hand on the pommel, and
sprang lightly into the saddle as Fareham's strong arm lifted her. Yet
she could but notice that his hand shook as he gave her the bridle, and
arranged the cloth petticoat over her foot.
Not a word was spoken on either side as they rode out at the gate and
through the village of St. Nicholas, beautiful in the moonlight. Such low
crumbling walls and deeply sloping roofs of cottages squatting in a tangle
of garden and orchard; such curious outlines of old brick gables in the
better class houses of miller, butcher, and general dealer; orchards and
gardens and farm buildings, with every variety of thatch and eaves, huddled
together in picturesque confusion; large spaces everywhere--pond, and
village green, and common, and copse beyond; a peaceful, prosperous
settlement, which had passed unharmed through the ordeal of the civil war,
safe in its rural seclusion. Not a word was spoken even when the village
was left behind, and they were riding on a lonely road, in so brilliant
a moonlight that Angela could see every line in her companion's brooding
Why was he so gloomy and so unkind, in an hour when his sympathy should
naturally have been given to her? Was he consumed with sorrow for his
wife's indisposition, and did anxiety make him silent; or was he angry with
himself for not being as deeply distressed as a husband ought to be at
a wife's peril? She knew too well how he and Hyacinth had been growing
further apart day by day, till the only link between husband and wife
seemed to be a decent courtesy and subservience to the world's opinion.
She recalled that other occasion when they two had made a solitary journey
together, and in as gloomy a silence--that night of the great fire, when he
had flung off his doublet and taken the sculls out of her hands, and rowed
steadily and fast, with his eyes downcast, leaving her to steer the boat as
she would, or trusting to the lateness of the hour for a clear course. He
had seemed to hate her that night just as he seemed to hate her now, as
they rode mile after mile side by side, the groom following near, now at a
fast trot, now galloping along a stretch of waste grass that bordered the
highway, now breathing their horses in a walk.
In one of those intervals he asked her if she were tired.
"No, no. I have no power to feel anything but anxiety. If you would only
be kinder and tell me more about my sister! I fear you consider her in
"Yes, she is in danger. There is no doubt of that."
"O God! she looked so ill when I saw her last, and she talked so wildly. I
feared she was in a bad way. How soon shall we be at Chilton, my lord?"
"My lord! Why do you 'my lord' me?"
"I can find no other name. We seem to be strangers to-night; but, indeed,
names and ceremonies matter nothing when the mind is in trouble. How soon
shall we reach the Abbey, Fareham?"
"In an hour, at latest, Angela."
His voice trembled as he spoke her name, and all of force and passion that
could be breathed into a single word was in his utterance. She flushed at
the sound, and looked at him with a sudden fear; but his countenance might
have been wrought-iron, so cold and passionless and cruelly resolute looked
that rough-hewn face in the moonlight.
"I have a fresh horse waiting for you at Thame," he said. "I will not have
you wearied by riding a tired horse. We are within five minutes of the inn.
Will you rest there for half an hour, and take some refreshment?"
"Rest, when my sister may be dying! Not a moment more than is needed to
"I have brought Queen Bess, another of your favourites. 'Twas she who
taught you to ride. She will know your voice, and your light hand upon her
They found the Inn wrapped in slumber, like every house or cottage they had
passed; but a lantern shone within an open door in the quadrangle round
which house and stables were built. One of the Fareham grooms was there,
with an ostler to wait upon him, and three horses were brought out of their
stable, ready saddled, as the travellers rode under the archway into the
The mare was excited at finding herself on the road in the clear cool
night, with the moonlight in her eyes, and was gayer than Fareham liked to
see her under so precious a load; but Angela was no longer the novice by
whose side he had ridden nearly two years before. She handled Queen Bess
firmly, and soon settled her into a sharp trot, and kept her at it for
nearly three miles. The hour Fareham had spoken of was not exceeded by many
minutes when Chilton Abbey came in sight, the grey stone walls pale in the
moonlight. All things--the long park wall, the pillared gates, the open
spaces of the park, the depth of shadow where the old oaks and beeches
spread wide and dark, had a look of unreality which contrasted curiously
with the scene as she had last beheld it in all its daylight verdure and
She dropped lightly from her horse, so soon as they drew rein at an angle
of the long irregular house, where there was a door, half hidden under ivy,
by which Lord Fareham went in and out much oftener than by the principal
entrance. It opened into a passage that led straight to the library, where
there was a lamp burning to-night. Angela saw the light in the window as
they rode past.
He opened the door, which had been left on the latch, and nodded a
dismissal to the groom, who went off to the stables, leading their horses.
All was dark in the passage--dark and strangely silent; but this wing was
remote from the chief apartments and from the servants' offices.
"Will you take me to my sister at once?" Angela asked, stopping on the
threshold of the library, when Fareham had opened the door.
A lamp upon the tall mantelpiece feebly lighted the long low room, gloomy
with the darkness of old oak wainscot and a heavily timbered ceiling. There
were two flasks of wine upon a silver salver, and provisions for a supper,
and a fire was burning on the hearth.
"You had better warm yourself after your night ride, and eat and drink
something before you see her."
"No, no. What, after riding as fast as our horses could carry us! I must go
to her this moment. Can you find me a candle?"--looking about her hurriedly
as she spoke. "But, indeed, it is no matter; I know my way to her room in
the dark, and there will be light enough from the great window."
"Stop!" he cried, seizing her arm as she was leaving the room; "stop!"
dragging her back and shutting the door violently. "Your sister is not
"Great God! what do you mean? You told me your wife was here--ill--dying
"I told you a lie, sweetheart; but desperate men will do desperate things."
"Where is my sister? Is she dead?"
"Not unless the Nemesis that waits on woman's folly has been swifter of
foot than common. I have no wife, Angela; and you have no sister that you
will ever care to own. My Lady Fareham has crossed the narrow sea with her
lover, Henri de Malfort--her paramour always--though I once thought him
yours, and tried to kill him for your sake."
"A runaway wife! Hyacinth! Great God!" She clasped her hands before her
face in an agony of shame and despair, falling upon her knees in sudden
self-abasement, her head drooping until her brow almost touched the ground.
And then, after but a few minutes of this deep humiliation, she started to
her feet with a cry of anger. "Liar! villain! despicable, devilish villain!
This is a lie, like the other--a wicked lie! Your wife--your wife a wanton?
My sister? My life upon it, she is in London--in your house, busy preparing
for my marriage. Unlock that door, my lord; let me go this instant--back to
my father. Oh, that I could be so mad as to leave his protection at your
bidding! Open the door, sir, I command you!"
She seemed to gain in height, and to be taller than he had thought her--he
who had so watched her, and whose memory held every line of that slender,
graceful figure. She stood straight as an arrow, looking at him with
set lips and flaming eyes, too angry to be afraid, trembling, but with
indignation, not fear of him.
"Nay, child," he said gravely, "I have got you, and I mean to keep you. But
you have trusted yourself to my hospitality, and you are safe in my house
as in a sanctuary. I may be a villain, but I am not a ruffian. If I have
brought you here by a trick, you are as much mistress of your life and fate
under this roof as you ever were in your father's house."
"I have but one thing to say, sir. Let me out of this hateful house."
"What then? Would you walk back to the Manor Moat, through the
"I would crawl there on my hands and knees if I could not walk; anything to
get away from you. Oh, the baseness of it! To vilify my sister--for your
own base purposes. Intolerable villain!"
"Mistress, we will soon put an end to that charge. Lies there have been,
but that is none. 'Tis you are the slanderer there."
He took a letter from the pocket of his doublet, and handed it to her. Then
he took the lamp from the mantelshelf and held it while she read.
Alas, it was her sister's hand. She knew those hurried characters too well.
The letter was blotted with ink and smeared as with tears. Angela's tears
began to rain upon the page as she read:--
"I have tried to be a good woman and a true wife to you, tried hard for
these many years, knowing all the time that you had left off loving me,
and but for the shame of it would have cared little, though I had as many
lovers as a maid of honour. You made life harder for me in this year last
past by your passion for my sister, which mystery of yours, silent and
secret as you were, these eyes must have been blind not to discover.
"And while you were cold in manner and cruel of speech--slighting me
ever--there was one who loved and praised me, one whose value I knew not
till he left this country, and I found myself desolate without him.
"He has come back. He, too, has found that I was the other half of his
mind; and that he could taste no pleasure in life unshared by me. He has
come to claim one who ever loved him, and denied him only for virtue's
sake. Virtue! Poor fool that I was to count that a woman's noblest quality!
Why, of all attributes, it is that the world least values. Virtue! when the
starched Due de Montausier fawns upon Louise de la Valliere, when Barbara
Palmer is de facto Queen of England. Virtue!
"Farewell! Forget me, Fareham, as I shall try to forget you. I shall be
in Paris perhaps before you receive this letter. My house in the Rue de
Touraine is ready for me. I shall dishonour you by no open scandal. The man
I love will but rank as the friend I most value, and my other friends will
ask no questions so long as you are silent, and do not seek to disgrace me.
Indeed, it were an ill thing to pursue me with your anger; the more so as I
am weak and ailing, and may not live long to enjoy my happiness. You have
given me so little that you should in common justice spare me your hate.
"I leave you your children, whom you have affected to love better than I;
and who have shown so little consideration for me that I shall not miss
* * * * *
"What think you of that, Angela, for the letter of a she-cynic?"
"It is blotted with her tears. She wrote in sorrow, despairing of your
"She managed to exist for a round dozen years without my love--or doubting
it--so long as she had her _cavaliere servante_. It was only when he
deserted her that she found life a burden. And now she has crossed the
Rubicon. She belongs to her age--the age of Kings' mistresses and light
women. And she will be happy, I dare swear, as they are. It is not an age
of tears. And when the fair Louise ran away to her Convent the other day,
in a passion of penitence, be sure she only went on purpose to be brought
back again. But now, sweet, say have I lied to you about the lady who was
once my wife?" he asked, pointing to the letter in her hand.
"And who is my sister to the end of time; my sister in Eternity: in
Purgatory or in Paradise. I cannot cast her off, though you may. I will set
out for Paris to-morrow, and bring her home, if I can, to the Manor. She
need trouble you no more. My husband and I can shelter and pity her."
"He will be my husband a fortnight hence."
"Never! Never, while I live to fling my body between you at the altar.
His blood or mine should choke your marriage vows. Angela, Angela, be
reasonable. I have brought you out of that trap. I have cut the net in
which they had caught you. My love, you are free, and I am free, and you
belong to me. You never loved Denzil Warner, never would love him, were
you to live with him a quarter of a century. He is ice, and you are fire.
Dearest, you belong to me. He who made us both created us to be happy
together. There are strings in our hearts that harmonize as concords in
music do. We are miserable apart, both of us. We waste, and fade, and
torture ourselves in absence; but only to breathe the same air, to sit,
silent, in the same room, is to be happy."
"Let me go!" she cried, looking at him with wild eyes, leaning against the
locked door, her hands clutching at the latch, seeming neither to hear nor
heed his impassioned address, though every word had sunk deep enough to
remain in her memory for ever. "Let me go! You are a dishonourable villain!
I came to London alone to your deserted house. I was not afraid of death or
the plague then. I am not afraid of you now. Open this door, and let me go,
never to see your wicked face again!"
"Angela, canst thou so play fast and loose with happiness? Look at me,"
kneeling at her feet, trying to take her hands from their hold on the
latch. "Our fate is in our power to-night. The day is near dawning, and
at the stroke of five my coach will be at the door to take us to Bristol,
where the ship lies that shall carry us to New England--to a new world, and
liberty; and to the sweet simple life that will please my dear love better
than all the garish pleasures of a licentious court. Ah, dearest, I know
thy mind and heart as well as I know my own. I know I can make thee happy
in that fair new world, where we shall begin life again, free from all old
burdens; and where, if thou wilt, my motherless children can join us, and
make one loving household. My Henriette adores you; and it were Christian
charity to rescue her and her brother from Charles Stuart's England, and to
bring them up to an honest life in a country where men are free to worship
God as He moves them. Love, you cannot deny me. So sweet a life waits for
us; and you have but to lay that dear hand in mine and give consent."
"Oh, God!" she murmured. "I thought this man held me in honour and esteem."
"Do I not honour you? Ah, love, what can a man do more than offer his life
to her he loves----"
"And if he is another woman's husband?"
"That tie is broken."
"I deny it. But if it were, you have been my sister's husband, and you
could be nothing to me but my brother. You have made sisterly affection
impossible, and so, my lord, we must be strangers; and, as you are a
gentleman, I bid you open this door, and let me make my way to some more
peaceful shelter than your house."
He tried to draw her to his breast; but she held him off with outstretched
arm, and even in the tumult of his passion the knowledge of her
helplessness and his natural shame at his own treachery kept him in check.
"Angela, call me villain if you will, but give me a fair hearing. Dearest,
the joy or sorrow of two lives lies in your choice to-night. If you will
trust me, and go with me, I swear I will make you happy. If you are
stubborn to refuse--well, sweetheart, you will but send a man to the devil
who is not wholly bad, and who, with you for his guardian angel, might find
the way to heaven."
"And begin the journey by a sin these lips dare not name. Oh, Fareham," she
said, growing suddenly calm and grave, and with something of that tender
maternal manner with which she had soothed and controlled him while he had
but half his wits, and when she feared he might be lying on his death-bed,
"I would rather believe you a madman than a villain; and, indeed, all that
you have done to-night is the work of a madman, who follows his own wild
fancy without power to reason on what he does. Surely, sir, you know me too
well to believe that I would let love--were it the blindest, most absorbing
passion woman ever felt--lead me into sin so base as that you would urge.
The vilest wanton at Whitehall would shrink from stealing a sister's
"There would be no theft. Your sister flings me to you as a dog drops the
bone he has picked dry. She had me when I was young, and a soldier--with
some reflected glory about me from the hero I followed--and rich and happy.
She leaves me old and haggard, without aim or hope, save to win her I
worship. Shall I tell you when I began to love you, my angel?"
"No, no; I will listen to no more raving. Thank God, there is the
daylight!" as the cold wan dawn flickered across the room. "Will you let me
beat my hands against this door till they bleed?"
"Thou shalt not harm the loveliest hands on earth," seizing them both in
his own. "Ah, sweet, I began to love thee before ever I rose from that bed
of horror where I had been left to perish. I loved thee in my unreason, and
my love strengthened with each hour of returning sense. Our journey, I so
weak, and sick, and helpless--was a ride through Paradise. I would have had
it last a year; would have suffered sickness and pain, aching limbs and
parched lips, only to feel the light touch of this dear hand upon my brow
'twixt sleep and waking; only to look up as I awoke, and see those sweet
eyes looking down at me. Ah, dearest, my heart arose from among the dead,
and came out of the tomb of all human affections to greet thee. Till I knew
you I knew not the meaning of love. And if you are stubborn, and will not
come with me to that new world, where we may be so happy, why, then I must
go down to my grave a despairing wretch that never knew a woman's love."
"My sister--your wife?"
"Never loved me. Her heart--that which she calls heart--was ever Malfort's
and not mine. She gave me to know as much by a hundred signs and tokens
which read plain enough now, looking back, but which I scarce heeded at the
time. I believed her chaste, and she was civil, and I was satisfied. I tell
you, Angela, this heart never beat for woman till I knew you. Ah, love, be
not stone! Make not our affinity an obstacle. The Roman Church will ever
grant dispensation for a union of affinities where there is cause for
indulgence. The Church would have had Philip married to his wife's sister
"The Church holds the bond of marriage indissoluble," Angela answered. "You
are married to my sister; and while she lives you can have no other wife."
Her brow was stern, her courage unfaltering; but physical force was failing
her. She leant against the door for support, and she no longer struggled
to withdraw her hands from that strong grasp which held them. She fought
against the faintness that was stealing over her senses; but her heavy
eyelids were beginning to droop, and there was a sound like rushing water
in her ears.
"Angela--Angela," pleaded the tender voice, "do you forget that afternoon
at the play, and how you wept over Bellario's fidelity--the fond girl-page
who followed him she loved; risked name and virtue; counted not the
cost, in that large simplicity of love which gives all it has to give,
unquestioning? Remember Bellario."
"Bellario had no thought that was not virtue's," she answered faintly; and
he took that fainter tone for a yielding will.
"She would not have left Philaster if he had been alone in the wilderness,
miserable for want of her love."
Her white lips moved dumbly, her eyelids sank, and her head fell back
upon his shoulder, as he started up from his knees to support her sinking
figure. She was in his arms, unconscious--the image of death.
He kissed her on the brow.
"My soul, I will owe nothing to thy helplessness," he whispered. "Thy free
will shall decide whether I live or die."
Another sound had mingled with the rushing waters as her senses left
her--the sound of knocking at a distant door. It grew louder and louder
momently, indicating a passionate impatience in those who knocked. The
sound came from the principal door, and there was a long corridor between
that door and Fareham's room.
He stood listening, undecided; and then he laid the unconscious form gently
on the thick Persian carpet--knowing that for recovery the fainting girl
could not lie too low. He cast one agitated glance at the white face
looking up at the ceiling, and then went quickly to the hall.
As he came near, the knocking began again, with greater vehemence, and a
voice, which he knew for Sir John's, called--
"Open the door, in the King's name, or we will break it open!"
There was a pause; those without evidently waiting for the result of that
last and loudest summons.
Fareham heard the hoofs of restless horses trampling the gravel drive, the
jingle of bit and chain, and the click of steel scabbards.
Sir John had not come alone.
"So soon; so devilish soon!" muttered Fareham. And then, as the knocking
was renewed, he turned and left the hall without a word of answer to those
outside, and hastened back to the room where he had left Angela. His brow
was fixed in a resolute frown, every nerve was braced. He had made up his
mind what to do. He had the house to himself, and was thus master of the
situation, so long as he could keep his pursuers on the outside. The upper
servants--half a dozen coach-loads--had been packed off to London, under
convoy of Manningtree and Mrs. Hubbock. The under servants--rank and
file--from housemaids to turnspits, slept in a huge barrack adjoining the
stables, built in Elizabeth's reign to accommodate the lower grade of a
nobleman's household. These would not come into the house to light fires
and sweep rooms till six o'clock at the earliest; and it was not yet four.
Lord Fareham, therefore, had to fear no interruption from his own people.
There was broad daylight in the house now; yet he looked about for a
candle; found one on a side-table, in a tall silver candlestick, and
stopped to light it, before he raised the lifeless figure from the floor
and lifted it into the easiest position for carrying, the head lying on his
shoulder. Then, holding the slender waist firmly, circled by his left arm,
he took the candlestick in his right hand, and went out of the room with
his burden, along a passage leading to a seldom-used staircase, which he
ascended, carrying that tall, slim form as if it had been a feather-weight,
up flight after flight, to the muniment room in the roof. From that point
his journey, and the management of that unconscious form, and to dispose
safely of the lighted candle, became more difficult, and occupied a
considerable time; during which interval the impatience of an enraged
father and a betrothed husband, outside the hall door, increased with every
minute of delay, and one of their mounted followers, of whom they had
several, was despatched to ride at a hand-gallop to the village of
Chilton, and rouse the Constable, while another was sent to Oxford for a
Magistrate's warrant to arrest Lord Fareham on the charge of abduction. And
meanwhile the battering upon thick oaken panels with stout riding-whips,
and heavy sword-hilts, and the calling upon those within, were repeated
with unabated vehemence, while a couple of horsemen rode round the house to
examine other inlets, and do picket duty.
The Constable and his underling were on the ground before that stubborn
citadel answered the reiterated summons; but at last there came the sound
of bolts withdrawn. An iron bar dropped from its socket with a clang that
echoed long and loud in the empty hall, the door opened, and Fareham
appeared on the threshold, corpse-like in the cold raw daylight, facing his
besiegers with a determined insolence.
"Thou most infernal villain!" cried Sir John, rushing into the hall,
followed closely by Denzil and one of the men, "what have you done with my
"Which daughter does your honour seek? If it be she whom you gave me for a
wife, she has broken the bond, and is across the sea with her paramour?"
"You lie--reprobate! Your wife had doubtless business relating to her
French estate, which called her to Paris. My daughters are honest women,
unless by your villainy, one, who should have been sacred, as your sister
by affinity, should bear a blighted name. Give me back my daughter,
villain--the girl you lured from her home by the foulest deceit!"
"You cannot see the lady to-day, gentlemen; even though you threaten me
with your weapons," pointing with a sardonic smile to their drawn swords,
"and out-number me with your followers. The lady is gone. I am alone in the
house to submit to any affront your superior force may put upon me."
"Our superiority can at least search your house," said Denzil. "Sir John,
you had best take one way and I another. I doubt I know every room and
passage in the Abbey."
"And your yeoman's manners offer a handsome return for the hospitality
which made you acquainted with my house," said Fareham, with a contemptuous
He followed Denzil, leaving Sir John to grope alone. The house had been
deserted but for a few days, yet the corridors and rooms had the heavy
atmosphere of places long shut from sunshine and summer breezes; while
the chilling hour, the grey ghostly light, added something phantasmal and
unnatural to the scene.
Denzil entered room after room--below stairs and above--explored the
picture-gallery, the bed-chambers, the long low ball-room in the roof,
built in Elizabeth's reign, when a wing had been added to the Abbey, and of
late used only for lumber. Fareham followed him close, stalking behind him
in sullen silence, with an unalterable gloom upon his face which betrayed
no sudden apprehensions, no triumph or defeat. He followed like doom, stood
quietly on one side as Denzil opened a door; waited on the threshold
while the searcher made his inspection, always with the same iron visage,
offering no opposition to the entrance of this or that chamber; only
following and watching, silent, intent, sphinx-like; till at last, fairly
worn out by blank disappointment, Denzil turned upon him in a sudden fury.
"What have you done with her?" he cried, desperately. "I will stake my life
she has not left this house, and by Him who made us you shall not leave it
living unless I find her."
He glanced downward at the naked sword he had carried throughout his
search. Fareham's was in the scabbard, and he answered that glance with an
"You think I have murdered her, perhaps," he said. "Well, I would rather
see her dead than yours. So far I am in capacity a murderer."
They met Sir John in Lady Fareham's drawing-room, when Denzil had gone over
the whole house, trusting nothing to the father's scrutiny.
"He has stabbed her and dropped her murdered body down a well," cried the
Knight, half distraught. "He cannot have spirited her away otherwise. Look
at him, Denzil; look at that haggard wretch I have called my son. He has
the assassin's aspect."
Something--it might be the room in which they were standing--brought back
to Angela's betrothed the memory of that Christmas night when aunt and
niece had been missing, and when he, Denzil, had burst into this room,
where Fareham was seated at chess; who, at the first mention of Angela's
name, started up, white with horror, to join in the search. It was he who
found her then; it was he who had hidden her now; and in the same remote
and secret spot.
"Fool that I was not to remember sooner!" cried Denzil. "I know where to
find her. Follow me, Sir John. Andrew"--calling to the servant who waited
in the hall--"follow us close."
He rushed along a passage, ran upstairs faster than old age, were it ever
so eager, could follow. But Fareham was nearly as fast--nearly, but not
quite, able to overtake him; for he was older, heavier, and more broken by
the fever of that night's work than his colder-tempered rival.
Denzil was some paces in advance when he reached the muniment room. He
found the opening in the wainscot, and the steep stair built into the
chimney. Half way to the bottom there was a gap--an integral part of the
plan--and a drop of six feet; so that a stranger in hurried pursuit would
be likely to come to grief at this point, and make time for his quarry to
escape by the door that opened on the garden. Memory, or wits sharpened by
anxiety, enabled Denzil to avoid this trap; and he was at the door of the
Priest's Hole before Fareham began the descent.
Yes, she was there, kneeling in a corner, a candle burning dimly on a stone
shelf above her head. She was in the attitude of prayer, her head bent, her
face hidden, when the door opened, and she looked up and saw her betrothed
"Denzil! How did you find me here?"
"I should be a poor slave if I had not found you, remembering the past.
Great God, how pale you are! Come, love, you are safe. Your father is here.
Angela, thou that art so soon to be my wife--face to face--here--before we
leave this accursed pit--tell me that you did not go with that villain,
except for the sake of your sick sister--that you were the victim of a
heartless lie--not a party to a trick invented to blind your father and
"I doubt I have not all my senses yet," she said, putting her hand to her
head. "I was told my sister wanted me, and I came. Where is Lord Fareham?"
The terror in her countenance as she asked that question froze Denzil.
Ah, he had known it all along! That was the man she loved. Was she his
victim--and a willing victim? He felt as if a great gulf had opened between
him and his betrothed, and that all his hopes had withered.
Fareham was at his elbow in the next moment. "Well, you have found her,"
he said; "but you shall not have her, save by force of arms. She is in my
custody, and I will keep her; or die for her if I am outnumbered!"
"Execrable wretch! would you attempt to detain her by violence? Come,
madam," said Denzil, turning coldly to Angela, "there is a door on those
stairs which will let you out into the air.
"The door will not open at your bidding!" Fareham said fiercely.
He snatched Angela up in his arms before the other could prevent him, and
carried her triumphantly to the first landing-place, which was considerably
below that treacherous gap between stair and stair. He had the key of the
garden door in his pocket, unlocked it, and was in the open air with his
burden before Denzil could overtake him.
He found himself caught in a trap. He had his coach-and-six and armed
postillions waiting close by, and thought he had but to leap into it with
his prey and spirit her off towards Bristol; but between the coach and the
door one of Sir John's pickets was standing, who the moment the door opened
whistled his loudest, and brought Constable and man and another armed
servant running helter-skelter round an angle of the house, and so crossing
the very path to the coach.
"Fire upon him if he tries to pass you!" cried Denzil.
"What! And shoot the lady you have professed to love!" exclaimed Fareham,
drawing himself up, and standing firm as a rock, with Angela motionless in
He dropped her to her feet, but held her against his left shoulder with an
iron hold, while he drew his sword and made a rush for the coach. Denzil
sprang into his path, sword in hand, and their blades crossed with a shrill
clash and rattle of steel. They fought like demons, Fareham holding Angela
behind him, sheltering her with his body, and swaying from side to side in
his sword-play with a demoniac swiftness and suppleness, his thick dark
brows knitted over eyes that flamed with a fiercer fire than flashed from
steel meeting steel. A shriek of horror from Angela marked the climax, as
Denzil fell with Fareham's sword between his ribs. There had been little of
dilettante science, or graceful play of wrist in this encounter. The men
had rushed at each other savagely, like beasts in a circus, and whatever
of science had guided Fareham's more practised hand had been employed
automatically. The spirit of the combatants was wild and fierce as the rage
that moves rival stags fighting for a mate, with bent heads and tramping
hoofs, and clash of locked antlers reverberating through the forest
Fareham had no time to exult over his prostrate foe; Sir John and his
servants, Constable and underlings, surrounded him, and he was handcuffed
and hauled off to the coach that was to have carried him to a sinner's
paradise, before any one had looked to Denzil's wound, or discovered
whether that violent thrust below the right lung had been fatal. Angela
sank swooning in her father's arms.
IN THE COURT OF KING'S BENCH.
The summer and autumn had gone by--an eventful season, for with it had
vanished from the stage of politics one who had played so dignified and
serious a part there. Southampton was dead, Clarendon disgraced and in
exile. The Nestor and the Ulysses of the Stuart epic had melted from the
scene. Down those stairs by which he had descended on his way to so many a
splendid festival, himself a statelier figure than Kings or Princes, the
Chancellor had gone to banishment and oblivion. "The lady" had looked for
the last time, a laughing Jezebel, from a palace window, exultant at her
enemy's fall; and along the river that had carried such tragic destinies
eastward to be sealed in blood, Edward Hyde, Earl of Clarendon, had drifted
quietly out of the history he had helped to make. The ballast of that grave
intellect was flung overboard so that the ship of fools might drift the
But in Westminster Hall, upon this windy November morning, nobody thought
of Clarendon. The business of the day was interesting enough to obliterate
all considerations of yesterday. The young barristers, who were learning
their trade by listening to their betters, had been shivering on their
benches in the Common Pleas since nine o'clock, in that chilly corner
where every blast from the north or north-east swept over the low wooden
partition that enclosed the court, or cut through the chinks in the
panelling. The students and juniors were in their usual places, sitting at
the feet of their favourite Common-law Judge; but the idlers who came for
amusement, to saunter about the hall, haggle for books with the second-hand
dealers along the south wall, or flirt with the milliners who kept stalls
for bands and other legal finery on the opposite side, or to listen on
tiptoe, with an ear above the panelled enclosure, to the quips and cranks
or fierce rhetoric of a famous advocate--these to-day gravitated with one
accord towards the south-west corner of the Hall, where, in the Court of
King's Bench, Richard Revel, Baron Fareham, of Fareham, Hants, was to be
tried by a Buckinghamshire jury for abduction, with fraud, malice, and
violence, and for assault, with intent to murder.
The rank of the offender being high, and the indictment known to involve
tragic details of family history, there had been much talk of the cause
which was on the paper for to-day; and, as a natural consequence, besides
the habitual loungers and saunterers, gossips, and book-buyers, there was
a considerable sprinkling of persons of quality, who perfumed the not too
agreeable atmosphere with pulvilio and Florentine iris powder, and the
rustle of whose silks and brocades was audible all over the Hall. Not
often did such gowns sweep the dust brought in by plebeian feet, nor such
Venetian point collars rub shoulders with the frowsy Norwich drugget worn
by hireling perjurers or starveling clerks. The modish world had come down
upon the great Norman Hall like a flock of pigeons, sleek, iridescent,
all fuss and flutter; and among these unaccustomed visitors there was
prodigious impatience for the trial to begin, and a struggle for good
places that brought into full play the primitive brutality which underlies
the politeness of the civillest people.
Lady Sarah Tewkesbury had risen betimes, and, in her anxiety to secure a
good place, had come out in her last night's "head," which somewhat damaged
edifice of ginger-coloured ringlets and Roman pearls was now visible above
the wooden partition of the King's Bench to the eyes of the commonalty
in the hall below, her ladyship being accommodated with a seat among the
One of these was a young man in a shabby gown and rumpled wig, but with
a fair complexion and tolerable features--a stranger to that court, and
better known at Hicks's Hall, and among city litigators, with whom he had
already a certain repute for keen wits and a plausible tongue--about the
youngest advocate at the English Bar, and by some people said to be no
barrister at all, but to have put on wig and gown two years ago at Kingston
Assizes and called himself to the Bar, and stayed there by sheer audacity.
This young gentleman, Jeffreys by name, having deserted the city and
possible briefs in order to hear the Fareham trial, was inclined to resent
being ousted by an obsequious official to make room for Lady Sarah.
"Faith, one would suppose I was her ladyship's footman and had been keeping
her seat for her," he grumbled, as he reluctantly rose at the Usher's
whispered request, and edged himself sulkily off to a corner where he found
It was a very hard seat which Mr. Jeffreys had vacated, and her ladyship,
after sitting there over two hours, nodding asleep a good part of the time,
began to feel internal sinkings and flutterings which presaged what she
called a "swound," and necessitated recourse to a crystal flask of strong
waters which she had prudently brought in her muff. Other of Lady Fareham's
particular friends were expected--Sir Ralph Masaroon, Lady Lucretia Topham,
and more of the same kidney; and even the volatile Rochester had deigned to
express an interest in the case.
"The man was mistaken in his metier," he had told Lady Sarah, when the
scandal was discussed in her drawing-room. "The _role_ of seducer was
not within his means. Any one could see he was in love with the pale
sister-in-law by the manner in which he scowled at her; but it is not every
woman who can be subjugated by gloom and sullenness, though some of 'em
like us tragical. My method has been to laugh away resistance, as my wife
will acknowledge, who was the cruellest she I ever tackled, and had baffled
all her other servants. Indeed she must have been in Butler's eye when he
'That old Pyg--what d'ye call him--malion
That cut his mistress out of stone,
Had not so hard a hearted one.'
Even Lady Rochester will admit I conquered without heroics," upon which her
ladyship, late mistress Mallett, a beauty and a fortune, smiled assent with
all the complacency of a six-months' bride. "To see a man tried for an
attempted abduction is a sight worth a year's income," pursued Rochester.
"I would travel a hundred miles to behold that rare monster who has failed
in his pursuit of one of your obliging sex!"
"Do you think us all so easily won?" asked Lady Sarah, piqued.
"Dear lady, I can but judge by experience. If obdurate to others you have
still been kind to me."
* * * * *
Lady Sarah had nearly emptied her flask of Muscadine before Masaroon
elbowed his way to a seat beside her, from which he audaciously dislodged
a coffee-house acquaintance, an elderly lawyer upon whom fortune had not
smiled, with a condescending civility that was more uncivil than absolute
"We'll share a bottle in Hell after the trial, mon ami," he said; and on
seeing Lady Sarah's look of horror, he hastened to explain that Heaven,
Hell, and Purgatory, were the cant names of three taverns which drove a
roaring trade in strong drinks under the very roof of the Hall.
"The King's Attorney-general is prosecuting," answered Sir Ralph, replying
to a question from Lady Sarah, whose inquiries betrayed that dense
ignorance of legal technicalities common even to accomplished women. "It
is thought the lady's father would have been glad for the matter to be
quashed, his fugitive daughter being restored to his custody--albeit with a
damaged character--and her elder sister having run away from her husband."
"I will not hear you slander my dearest friend," protested Lady Sarah.
"Lady Fareham left her husband, and with good cause, as his after-conduct
showed. She did not run away from him."
"Nay, she had doubtless the assistance of a carriage-and-six. She would
scarce foot it from London to Dover. And now she is leading grand train in
Paris, and has taken almost as commanding a place as her friend Madame de
Longueville, penitent and retired from service."
"Hyacinth, under all her appearance of silliness, is a remarkably clever
woman," said Lady Sarah, sententiously; "but, pray, Sir Ralph, if Mistress
Angela's father has good reason for not prosecuting his daughter's
lover--indeed I ever thought her an underhand hussy--why does not Sir
Denzil Warner--who I hear has been at death's door--pursue him for assault
"Nay, is so still, madam. I question if he be yet out of danger. The
gentleman is a kind of puritanical Quixote, and has persistently refused to
swear an information against Fareham, whereby I doubt the case will fall
through, or his lordship get off with a fine of a thousand or two. We have
no longer the blessing of a Star Chamber, to supply state needs out of
sinners' pockets, and mitigate general taxation; but his Majesty's Judges
have a capacious stomach for fines, and his Majesty has no objection to see
his subjects' misdemeanours transmuted into coin."
And now the business of the day began, the panelled enclosure being by
this time crowded almost to suffocation; and Lord Fareham was brought into
He was plainly dressed in a dark grey suit, and looked ten years older
than when Lady Sarah had last seen him on his wife's visiting day, an
uninterested member of that modish assembly. His eyes were deeper sunken
under the strongly marked brows. The threads of iron-grey in his thick
black hair were more conspicuous. He carried his head higher than he had
been accustomed to carry it, and the broad shoulders were no longer bent in
the Stafford stoop. The spectators could see that he had braced himself for
the ordeal, and would go through the day's work like a man of iron.
Proclamation was made for silence, and for information, if any person could
give any, concerning the misdemeanour and offence whereof the defendant
stood impeached; and the defendant was bid to look to his challenges, and
the Jury, being gentlemen of the county of Bucks, were called, challenged,
The demand for silence was so far obeyed that there followed a hush within
the enclosure of the court; but there was no cessation of the buzz of
voices and the tramp of footsteps in the hall, which mingled sounds seemed
like the rise and fall of a human ocean, as heard within that panelled
The lawyers took snuff, shuffled on their seats, nudged each other and
whispered now and then, during the reading of the indictment; but among
Lady Fareham's friends, and the quality in general, there was a breathless
silence and expectancy; and Lady Sarah would gladly have run her hat-pin
into a snuffy old Serjeant close beside her, who must needs talk behind his
hand to his pert junior.
To her ladyship's unaccustomed ears that indictment, translated literally
from the Latin original, sounded terrible as an impeachment in the
subterranean halls of the Vehm Gericht, or in the most select and secret
council in the Venetian Doge's Palace.
The indictment set forth "that the defendant, Richard Revel, Baron Fareham,
on the 4th day of July, in the 18th year of our sovereign lord the King
that now is, at the parish of St. Nicholas in the Vale, in the county of
Bucks, falsely, unlawfully, unjustly, and wickedly, by unlawful and impure
ways and means, contriving, practising, and intending the final ruin and
destruction of Mrs. Angela Kirkland, unmarried, and one of the daughters
of Sir John Kirkland, Knight--the said lady then and there being under
the custody, government, and education of the said Sir John Kirkland, her
father--he, the said Richard Revel, Baron Fareham, then and there falsely,
unlawfully, devilishly, to fulfil, perfect, and bring to effect, his most
wicked, impious, and devilish intentions aforesaid--the said Richard Revel,
Lord Fareham (then and long before, and yet, being the husband of Mrs.
Hyacinth, another daughter of the said Sir John Kirkland, Knight, and
sister of the said Mrs. Angela), against all laws as well divine as human,
impiously, wickedly, impurely, and scandalously, did tempt, invite, and
solicit, and by false and lying pretences, oaths, and affirmations,
unlawfully, unjustly, and without the leave, and against the will of the
aforesaid Sir John Kirkland, Knight, in prosecution of his most wicked
intent aforesaid, did carry off the aforesaid Mrs. Angela, she consenting
in ignorance of his real purpose, about the hour of twelve in the
night-time of the said 4th day of July, in the year aforesaid, and at the
aforesaid, parish of St. Nicholas in the Vale, in the county of Bucks
aforesaid, out of the dwelling-house of the said Sir John Kirkland, Knight,
did take and convey to his own house in the county of Oxford, and did then
and there detain her by fraud, and did there keep her hidden in a secret
chamber known as the Priest's Hole in his own house aforesaid, at the
hazard of her life, and did oppose her rescue by force of arms, and with
his sword, unlawfully, murderously, and devilishly, and in the prosecution
of his wicked purpose did stab and wound Sir Denzil Warner, Baronet, the
lady's betrothed husband, from which murderous assault the said Sir Denzil
Warner, Baronet, still lies in great sickness and danger of death, to the
great displeasure of Almighty God, to the ruin and destruction of the said
Mrs. Angela Kirkland, to the grief and sorrow of all her friends, and
to the evil and most pernicious example of all others in the like case
offending; and against the peace of our said sovereign lord the King, his
crown and dignity."
The defendant having pleaded "Not guilty," the Jury were charged in the
usual manner and with all solemnity.
"If you find him 'guilty' you are to say so; if you find him 'not guilty'
you are to say so, and no more, and hear your evidence."
The Attorney-General confined himself to a brief out-line of the tragic
story, leaving all details to be developed by the witnesses, who were
allowed to give their evidence with colloquial freedom and expansiveness.
The first witness was old Reuben, the steward from the Manor Moat, who had
not yet emerged from that mental maze in which he had found himself upon
beholding the change that had come to pass in the great city, since the
well-remembered winter of the King's execution, and the long frost, when
he, Reuben, was last in London. His evidence was confused and confusing;
and he drew upon himself much good-natured ridicule from the junior who
opened the case. Out of various muddle-headed answers and contradictory
statements the facts of Lord Fareham's unexpected appearance at the Manor
Moat, his account of his lady's illness, and his hurried departure,
carrying the young madam with him on horseback, were elicited, and the
story of the ruse by which Mrs. Angela Kirkland had been beguiled from her
home was made clear to the comprehension of a superior but rustic jury,
more skilled in discriminating the points of a horse, the qualities of an
ox, or the capacity of a hound, than in differentiating truth and falsehood
in a story of wrong-doing.
Sir John Kirkland was the next witness, and the aspect of the man, the
noble grey head, fine features, and soldierly carriage, the old-fashioned
habit, the fashion of an age not long past, but almost forgotten, enlisted
the regard and compassion of Jury and audience.
"Let me perish if it is not a ghost from the civil wars!" whispered Sir
Ralph to Lady Sarah. "Mrs. Angela might well be romanesque and unlike the
rest of us, with such a father."
A spasm of pain convulsed Fareham's face for a moment, as the old Cavalier
stood up in the witness-box, towering above the Court in that elevated
position, and, after being sworn, took one swift survey of the Bench and
Jury, and then fixed his angry gaze upon the defendant, and scarcely
shifted it in the whole course of his examination.
"Now, Gentlemen of the Jury," said the Attorney-General, "we shall tell you
what happened at Chilton Abbey, to which place the defendant, under such
fraudulent and lying pretences as you have heard of from the last witness,
conveyed the young lady. Sir John, I will ask you to acquaint the Jury
as fully and straightforwardly as you can with the circumstances of your
pursuit, and the defendant's reception of you and your intended son-in-law,
Sir Denzil Warner, whose deposition we have failed to obtain, but who could
relate no facts which are not equally within your own knowledge."
"My words shall be straight and plain, sir, to denounce that unchristian
wretch whom, until this miserable business, I trusted as if he had been my
son. I came to my house, accompanied by my daughter's plighted husband,
within an hour after that villain conveyed her away; and on hearing my old
servant's story was quick to suspect treachery. Nor was Sir Denzil backward
in his fears, which were more instantaneous than mine; and we waited only
for the saddling of fresh horses, and rousing a couple of grooms from
their beds, fellows that I could trust for prudence and courage, before we
mounted again, following in that wretch's track. We heard of him and his
victim at the Inn where they changed horses, she going consentingly,
believing she was being taken in this haste to attend a dying sister."
"And on arriving at the defendant's house what was your reception?"
"He opposed our entrance, until he saw that we should batter down his door
if he shut us out longer. We were not admitted until after I had sent one
of my servants for the nearest Constable; and before we had gained an
entrance into his house he had contrived to put away my daughter in a
wretched hiding-place, planned for the concealment of Romish Priests or
other recusants and malefactors, and would have kept her there, I believe,
till she had perished in that foul cavern, rather than restore her to her
father and natural guardian."
"That is false, and you know it!" cried Fareham. "My life is of less
account to me than a hair of her head. I hid her from you, to save her from
your tyranny, and the hateful marriage to which you would have compelled
"Liar! Impudent, barbarous liar!" roared the old Knight, with his right arm
raised, and his body half out of the box, as if he would have assaulted
the defendant. "Sir John," said the Judge, "I would be very loath to deal
otherwise than becomes me with a person of your quality; but, indeed, this
is not so handsome, and we must desire you to be calm."
"When I remember his infamy, and that vile assumption of my daughter's
passion for him, which he showed in every word and act of that miserable
He went on to relate the searching of the house, and Warner's happy
inspiration, by which Angela's hiding-place was discovered, and she rescued
in a fainting condition. He described the defendant's audacious attempt
to convey her to the coach which stood ready for her abduction, and his
violence in opposing her rescue, and the fight which had well-nigh resulted
in Warner's death.
When Sir John's story was finished the defendant's advocate, who had
declined to question the old butler, rose to cross-examine this more
"In your tracing of the defendant's journey between your house and Chilton
you heard of no outcries of resistance upon your daughter's side?"
"No, sir. She went willingly, under a delusion."
"And do you think now, sir, as a man of the world, and with some knowledge
of women, that your daughter was so easily hoodwinked; she having seen her
sister, Lady Fareham, so shortly before, in good health and spirits?"
"Lady Fareham did not appear in good health when she was last at the Manor,
and her sister was already uneasy about her."
"But not so uneasy as to believe her dying, and that it was needful to ride
to her helter-skelter in the night-time. Do you not think, sir, that the
young lady, who was so quick to comply with his lordship's summons, and
bustled up and was in the saddle ten minutes after he entered the house,
and was willing to got without her own woman, or any preparation for
travel, had a strong inclination for the journey, and a great kindness for
the gentleman who solicited her company?"
"Has that barbarous wretch set you on to slander the lady whose ruin he
sought, sir?" asked the Knight, pallid with the white heat of indignation.
"Nay, Sir John, I am no slanderer; but I want the Jury to understand the
sentiments and passions which are the springs of action here, and to bear
in mind that the case they are hearing is a love story, and they can only
come at the truth by remembering their own experience as lovers--"
The deep and angry tones of his client interrupted the silvery-tongued
"If you think to help me, sir, by traducing the lady, I repudiate your
"My lord, you are not allowed to give evidence or to interrupt the Court.
You have pleaded not guilty, and it is my duty to demonstrate your
innocence. Come, Sir John, do you not know that his lordship's unhappy
passion for his sister-in-law was shared by the subject of it; and that she
for a long time opposed all your efforts to bring about a proper alliance
for her, solely guided and influenced by this secret passion?"
"I know no such thing."
"Do I understand, then, that from the time of your first proposals she was
willing to marry Sir Denzil Warner?"
"She was not willing."
"I would have wagered as much. Did you fathom her reason for declining so
proper an alliance?"
"I did not trouble myself about her reasons. I knew that time would wear
"And I doubt you trusted to a father's authority?"
"No, sir. I promised my daughter that I would not force her inclinations."
"But you used all methods of persuasion. How long was it before July the
4th that Mrs. Angela consented to marry Sir Denzil?"
"I cannot be over precise upon that point. I have no record of the date."
"But you have the faculty of memory, sir; and this is a point which a
father would not easily forget."
"It may have been a fortnight before."
"And until that time the lady was unwilling?"
"She refused positively to accept the match you urged upon her?"
"And finally consented, I will wager, with marked reluctance?"
"No, sir, there was no reluctance. She came to me of her own accord, and
surprised me by her submission."
"That will do, Sir John. You can stand down. I shall now proceed to call a
witness who will convince the Jury of my client's innocence upon the first
and chief count in the indictment, abduction with fraud and violence. I
shall tell you by the lips of my witness, that if he took the lady away
from her home, she being of full age, she went freely consenting, and with
knowledge of his purpose."
"Lies--foul lies!" cried the old Cavalier, almost strangled with passion.
He plucked at the knot of his cravat, trying to loosen it, feeling himself
threatened with apoplexy.
"Call Mistress Angela Kirkland," said the Serjeant, in strong steady tones
that contrasted with the indignant father's hoarse and gasping utterance.
"S'life! the business becomes every moment more interesting," whispered
Lady Sarah. "Will he make that sly slut own her misconduct in open court?"
"If she blush at her slip from virtue, it will be a new sensation in a
London law-court to see the colour of shame," replied Sir Ralph, behind his
perfumed glove; "but I warrant she'll carry matters with a high hand, and
feel herself every inch a heroine."
Angela came into the court attended by her waiting-woman, who remained near
the entrance, amid the close-packed crowd of lawyers and onlookers, while
her mistress quietly followed the official who conducted her to the
She was dressed in black, and her countenance under her neat black hood
looked scarcely less white than her lawn neckerchief; but she stood erect
and unfaltering in that conspicuous station, and met the eyes of her
interrogator with an untroubled gaze. When her lips had touched the dirty
little book, greasy with the kisses of innumerable perjurers, the Serjeant
began to question her in a tone of odious familiarity.
"Now, my dear young lady, here is a gentleman's liberty, and perhaps his
life, hanging on the breath of those pretty lips; so I want you to answer
a few plain questions with as plain speech as you can command, remembering
that you are to tell us the truth, and the whole truth, and nothing but the
truth. Come, now, dear miss, when you left your father's house on the night
of July 4, in this present year, in Lord Fareham's company, did you go with
him of your own free will, and with a knowledge of his purpose?"
"I knew that he loved me."
A heart-breaking groan from Sir John Kirkland was hushed down by an usher
of the court.
"You knew that he loved you, and that he designed to carry you beyond
"And you were willing to leave your father's custody and go with the
defendant as his paramour?"
There was a pause, and the white cheek crimsoned, and the heavy eyelids
fell over agonised eyes.
"I went willingly--because I loved him;" and then with a sudden burst of
passion, "I would have died for him, or lived for him. It mattered not
"And she has lied for him--has sworn to a lie--and that to her own
dishonour!" cried Sir John, beside himself; whereupon he was sternly bidden
to keep silence.
There was no intention that this little Buckinghamshire gentleman should
be indulged, to the injury of a person of Lord Fareham's wealth and
consequence. The favour of the Bench obviously leant towards the defendant.
Fareham's deep tones startled the audience.
"In truth, your Honour, the young lady has belied herself in order to help
me," he said. "I cannot accept acquittal at the cost of her good name."
"Your lordship has pleaded not guilty."
"And his lordship's chivalry would revoke that plea," cried the Counsel;
"this is most irregular. I must beg that the Bench do order the defendant
to keep silence. The witness can stand down."
Angela descended from the witness-box falteringly, and would perhaps have
fallen but for her father's strong grasp, which clutched her arm as she
reached the last step.
He dragged her out of the close-packed court, and into the open Hall.
"Wanton!" he hissed in her ear, "shameless wanton!"
She answered nothing; but stood where he held her, with wild eyes looking
out of a white, rigid countenance. She had done what she had come there
to do. Persuaded by Fareham's attorney, who had waited upon her at her
lodgings when Sir John was out of the way, she had made her ill-considered
attempt to save the man she loved, ignorant of the extent of his danger,
exaggerating the potential severity of his punishment, in the illimitable
fear of a woman for the safety of the being she loves. And now she cared
nothing what became of her, cared little even for her father's anger or
distress. There was always the Convent, last refuge of sin or sorrow, which
meant the annihilation of the individual, and where the world's praise or
blame had no influence.
Her woman fussed about her with a bottle of strong essence, and Sir John
dragged rather than led her along the Hall, to the great door where the
coach that had carried her from his London lodgings was in waiting. He saw
her seated, with her woman beside her, supporting her, gave the coachman
his orders, and then went hastily back to the Court of King's Bench.
The Court was rising; the Jury, without leaving their seats, had pronounced
the defendant guilty of a misdemeanour, not in conveying Sir John
Kirkland's daughter away from her home, to which act she had avowed herself
a consenting party; but in detaining her in his house with violence, and
in opposition to her father and proper guardian. The Lord Chief Justice
expressed his satisfaction at this verdict, and after expatiating with
pious horror upon the evil consequences of an ungovernable passion, a
guilty, soul-destroying love, a direct inspiration of Satan, sentenced the
defendant to pay a fine of ten thousand pounds, upon the payment of which
sum he would be set at liberty.
The old Cavalier heard the brief sermon and the sentence, which seemed to
him of all punishments the most futile. He had hoped to see his son-in-law
sent to the Plantations for life; had been angry at the thought that he
would escape the gallows; and for sole penalty the seducer was sentenced to
forfeit less than a year's income. How corrupt and venal was a bench
that made the law of the land a nullity when a great personage was the
He flung himself in the defendant's way as he left the court, and struck
him across the breast with the flat of his sword.
"An unarmed man, Sir John! Is that your old-world chivalry?" Fareham asked,
A crowd was round them and swords were drawn before the officer could
interfere. There were friends of Fareham's in the court, and two of his
gentlemen; and Sir John, who was alone, might have been seriously hurt
before the authorities could put down the tumult, had not his son-in-law
"Sheath your swords, if you love me!" he exclaimed, flinging himself in
front of Sir John. "I would not have the slightest violence offered to this
"And I would kill you if I had the chance!" cried Sir John; "that is the
difference between us. I keep no measures with the man who ruined my
"Your daughter is as spotless a saint as the day she left her Convent, and
you are a blatant old fool to traduce her," said Fareham, exasperated, as
the Usher led him away.
His detention was no more than a formality; and as he had been previously
allowed his liberty upon bail, he was now permitted to return to his
own house, where by an order upon his banker he paid the fine, and was
henceforward a free man.
The first use he made of his freedom was to rush to Sir John's lodgings,
only to hear that the Cavalier, with his daughter and two servants, had
left half an hour earlier in a coach-and-four for Buckinghamshire. The
people at the lodgings did not know which road they had taken, or at what
Inn they were to lie on the way.
"Well, there will be a better chance of seeing her at the Manor than in
London," Fareham thought; "he cannot keep so close a watch upon her there
as in the narrow space of town lodgings."
BRINGERS OF SUNSHINE.
It was December, and the fields and pastures were white in the tardy dawn
with the frosty mists of early winter, and Sir John Kirkland was busy
making his preparations for leaving Buckinghamshire and England with his
daughter. He had come from Spain at the beginning of the year, hoping to
spend the remnant of his days in the home of his forefathers, and to lay
his old bones in the family vault; but the place was poisoned to him for
evermore, he told Angela. He could not stay where he and his had been held
in highest honour, to have his daughter pointed at by every grinning lout
in hob-nailed shoes, and scorned by the neighbouring quality. He only
waited till Denzil Warner should be pronounced out of danger and on the
high-road to recovery, before he crossed the Channel.
"There is no occasion you should leave Buckinghamshire, sir," Angela
argued. "It is the dearest wish of my heart to return to the Convent at
Louvain, and finish my life there, sheltered from the world's contempt."
"What, having failed to get your fancy, you would dedicate yourself to
God?" he cried. "No, madam. I am still your father, though you have
disgraced me; and I require a daughter's duty from you. Oh, child, I so
loved you, was so proud of you! It is a bitter physic you have given me to
She knelt at his feet, and kissed his sunburnt hands shrunken with age.
"I will do whatever you desire, sir. I wish no higher privilege than to
wait upon you; but when you weary of me there is ever the Convent."
"Leave that for your libertine sister. Be sure she will finish a loose life
by a conspicuous piety. She will turn saint like Madame de Longueville.
Sinners are the stuff of which modern saints are made. And women love
extremes--to pass from silk and luxury to four-o'clock matins, and the
Carmelite's woollen habit. No, Angela, there must be no Convent for you,
while I live. Your penance must be to suffer the company of a petulant,
disappointed old man."
"No penance, sir, but peace and contentment; so I am but forgiven."
"Oh, you are forgiven. There is that about you with which one cannot long
be angry--a creature so gentle and submissive, a reed that bends under a
blow. Let us not think of the past. You were a fool--but not a wanton. No,
I will never believe that! A generous, headstrong fool, ready with thine
own perjured lips to blacken thy character in order to save the villain who
did his best to ruin thee. But thou art pure," looking down at her with a
severe scrutiny. "There is no memory of guilt in those eyes. We will go
away together, and live peacefully together, and you shall still be the
staff of my failing steps, the light of my fading eyes, the comfort of
my ebbing life. Were I but easy in my mind about those poor forsaken
grandchildren, I could leave England cheerfully enough; but to know them
motherless--with such a father!"
"Indeed, sir, I believe, however greatly Lord Fareham may have erred, he
will not prove a neglectful father," Angela said, her voice growing low and
tremulous as she pronounced that fatal name.
"You will vouch for him, no doubt. A licentious villain, but an admirable
father! No, child, Nature does not deal in such anomalies. The children are
alone at Chilton with their English gouvernante, and the prim Frenchwoman,
who takes infinite pains to perfect Henriette's unlikeness to a human
child. They are alone, and their father is hanging about the Court."
"At Court! Lord Fareham! Indeed, sir, I think you must be mistaken."
"Indeed, madam, I have the fact on good authority."
"Oh, sir, if you have reason to think those dear children neglected, is it
not your duty to protect and care for them? Their poor, mistaken mother has
"Yes, to play the great lady in Paris, where, when I went in quest of
her last July--while thou wert lying sick here--hoping to bring back a
penitent, I was received with a triumphant insolence, finding her the
centre of a circle of flatterers, a Princess in little, with all the airs
and graces and ceremonies and hauteur of the French Blood-royal. When I
charged her with being Malfort's mistress, and bade her pack her traps and
come home with me, she deafened me with her angry volubility. I to slander
her--I, her father, when there was no one in Paris, from the Place Royale
to the Louvre, more looked up to! But when I questioned my old friends they
answered with enigmatical smiles, and assured me that they knew nothing
against my daughter's character worse than all the world was saying about
some of the highest ladies in France--Madame, to wit; and with this cold
comfort I must needs be content, and leave her in her splendid infamy."
"Father, be sure she will come back to us. She has been led into
wrong-doing by the artfullest of villains. She will discover the emptiness
of her life, and come back to seek the solace of her children's love. Let
us care for them meanwhile. They have no other kindred. Think of our sweet
Henriette--so rich, so beautiful, so over-intelligent--growing from child
to woman in the care of servants, who may spoil and pervert her even by
their very fondness."
"It is a bad case, I grant; but I can stir no finger where that man is
concerned. I can hold no communication with that scoundrel."
"But your lawyer could claim custody of the children for you, perhaps."
"I think not, Angela, unless there was a criminal neglect of their bodies.
The law takes no account of souls."
Angela's greatest anxiety--now that Denzil's recovery was assured--was for
the welfare of these children whom she fondly loved, and for whom she would
have gladly played a mother's part. She wrote in secret to her sister,
entreating her to return to England for her children's sake, and to devote
herself to them in retirement at Chilton, leaving the scandal of her
elopement to be forgotten in the course of blameless years; so that by the
time Henriette was old enough to enter the world her mother would have
recovered the esteem of worthy people, as well as the respect of the mob.
Lady Fareham's tardy answer was not encouraging. She had no design of
returning to a house in which she had never been properly valued, and
she admired that her sister should talk of scandal, considering that the
scandal of her own intrigue with her brother-in-law had set all England
talking, and had been openly mentioned in the London and Oxford Gazettes.
Silence about other people's affairs would best become a young miss who had
made herself so notorious.
As for the children, Lady Fareham had no doubt that their father, who had
ever lavished more affection upon them than he bestowed upon his wife,
might be trusted with the care of them, however abominable his conduct
might be in other matters. But in any case her ladyship would not exchange
Paris for London, where she had been slighted and neglected at Court as
well as at home.
The letter was a tissue of injustice and egotism; and Angela gave up all
hope of influencing her sister for good; but not the hope of being useful
to her sister's children.
Now, as the short winter days went by, and the preparations for departure
were making, she grew more and more urgent with her father to obtain the
custody of his grandchildren, and carry them to France with him, where they
might be reared and educated under his own eye. Montpelier was the place of
exile he had chosen, a place renowned alike for its admirable climate and
educational establishments; and where Sir John had spent the previous
winter, and had made friends.
It was to Montpelier the great Chancellor had retired from the splendours
of a princely mansion but just completed--far exceeding his own original
intentions in splendour, as the palaces of new-made men are apt to do--and
from a power and authority second only to that of kings. There the
grandfather of future queens was now residing in modest state, devoting the
evening of his life to the composition of an authentic record of the late
rebellion, and of those few years during which he had been at the head of
affairs in England. Sir John Kirkland, who had never forgotten his own
disappointments in the beginning of his master's restored fortunes, had a
fellow-feeling for "Ned Hyde" in his fall.
"As a statesman he was next in capacity to Wentworth," said Sir John, "and
yet a painted favourite and a rabble of shallow wits were strong enough to
The old Knight confessed that he had ridden out of his way on several
occasions when he was visiting Warner's sick-bed, in the hope of meeting
Henrietta and George on their ponies, and had more than once been so lucky
as to see them.
"The girl grows handsomer, and is as insolent as ever; but she has a
sorrowful look which assures me she misses her mother; though it was indeed
of that wretch, her father, she talked most. She said he had told her he
was likely to go on a foreign embassy. If it is to France he goes, there is
an end of Montpelier. The same country shall not hold him and my daughter
while I live to protect you."
Angela began to understand that it was his fear, or his hatred of Fareham,
which was taking him out of his native country. No word had been said of
her betrothal since that fatal night. It seemed tacitly understood that all
was at an end between her and Denzil Warner. She herself had been prostrate
with a low, nervous fever during a considerable part of that long period of
apprehension and distress in which Denzil lay almost at the point of death,
nursed by his grief-stricken mother, to whom the very name of his so lately
betrothed wife was hateful. Verily the papistical bride had brought a
greater trouble to that house than even Lady Warner's prejudiced mind had
anticipated. Kneeling by her son's bed, exhausted with the passion of long
prayers for his recovery, the mother's thoughts went back to the day when
Angela crossed the threshold of that house for the first time, so fair, so
modest, with a countenance so innocent in its pensive beauty.
"And yet she was guilty at heart even then," Lady Warner told herself, in
the long night-watches, after the trial at Westminster Hall, when Angela's
public confession of an unlawful love had been reported to her by her
favourite Nonconformist Divine, who had been in court throughout the trial,
with Lady Warner's lawyer, watching the proceedings in the interest of Sit
Denzil. Lady Warner received the news of the verdict and sentence with
"And my murdered son!" she gasped, "for I know not yet that God will
hear my prayers and raise him up to me again. Is his blood to count for
nothing--or his sufferings--his patient sufferings on that bed? A fine--a
paltry fine--a trifle for a rich man. I would pay thrice as much, though
it beggared me, to see him sent to the Plantations. O Judge and Avenger of
Israel! Thou hast scourged us with pestilence, and punished us with fire;
but Thou hast not convinced us of sin. The world is so sunk in wickedness
that murder scarce counts for crime."
The day of terror was past. Denzil's convalescence was proceeding slowly,
but without retrograde stages. His youth and temperate habits had helped
his recovery from a wound which in the earlier stages looked fatal. He was
now able to sit up in an armchair, and talk to his visitor, when Sir John
rode twenty miles to see him; but only once did his lips shape the name
that had been so dear, and that occasion was at the end of a visit which
Sir John announced as the last.
"Our goods are packed and ready for shipping," he said. "My daughter and I
will begin our journey to Montpelier early next week."
It was the first time Sir John had spoken of his daughter in that
"If she should ever talk of me, in the time to come," Denzil said--speaking
very slowly, in a low voice, as if the effort, mental and physical, were
almost beyond his strength, and holding the hand which Sir John had given
him in saying good-bye--"tell her that I shall ever remember her with
a compassionate affection--ever hold her the dearest and loveliest of
women--yes, even if I should marry, and see the children of some fair and
chaste wife growing up around me. She will ever be the first. And tell
her that I know she forswore herself in the court; and that she was the
innocent dupe of that villain--never his consenting companion. And tell her
that I pity her even for that so misplaced affection which tempted her to
swear to a lie. I knew, sir, always, that she loved him and not me. Yes,
from the first. Indeed, sir, it was but too easy to read that unconscious
beginning of unholy love, which grew and strengthened like some fatal
disease. I knew, but nursed the fond hope that I could win her heart--in
spite of him. I fancied that right must prevail over wrong; but it does
not, you see, sir, not always--not----" A faintness came over him;
whereupon his mother, re-entering the room at this moment, ran to him and
restored him with the strong essence that stood handy among the medicine
bottles on the table by his chair.
"You have suffered him to talk too much," she said, glancing angrily at Sir
John. "And I'll warrant he has been talking of your daughter--whose name
must be poison to him. God knows 'tis worse than poison to me!"
"Madam, I did not come to this house to hear my daughter abused----"
"It would have better become you, Sir John Kirkland, to keep away from this
"Mother, silence! You distress me worse than my illness----"
"This, madam, is my farewell visit. You will not be plagued any more with
me," said Sir John, lifting his hat, and bowing low to Lady Warner.
He was gone before she could reply.
* * * * *
The baggage was ready--clothes, books, guns, plate, and linen--all
necessaries for an exile that might last for years, had been packed for the
sea voyage; but the trunks and bales had not yet been placed in the waggon
that was to convey them to the Tower Wharf, where they were to be shipped
in one of the orange-boats that came at this season from Valencia, laden
with that choice and costly fruit, and returned with a heterogeneous cargo.
At Valencia the goods would be put on board a Mediterranean coasting
vessel, and landed at Cette.
Sir John began to waver about his destination after having heard from
Henriette of her father's possible embassy. Certainly if Fareham were to be
employed in foreign diplomacy, Paris seemed a likely post for a man who was
so well known there, and had spent so much of his life in France. And if
Fareham were to be at Paris, Sir John considered Montpelier, remote as it
was from the capital, too near his enemy.
"He has proved himself an indomitable villain," thought the Knight. "And I
could not always keep as close a watch upon my daughter as I have done
in the last six weeks. No. If Fareham be for France, I am for some other
country. I might take her to Florence, and put the Apennines between her
and that daring wretch."
It may be, too, that Sir John had another reason for lingering, after all
was ready for the journey. He may have been much influenced by Angela's
concern about his grandchildren, and may have hesitated at leaving them
alone in England with only salaried guardians.
"Their father concerns himself very little about them, you see," he told
Angela, "since he can entertain the project of a foreign embassy, while
those little wretches are pining in a lonely barrack in Oxfordshire."
"Indeed, sir, he is a fond father. I would wager my life that he is deeply
concerned about them."
"Oh, he is an angel, on your showing! You would blacken your sister's
character to make him a saint."
The next day was fine and sunny, a temperature as of April, after the
morning frost had melted. There was a late rose or two still lingering in
the sheltered Buckinghamshire valley, though it wanted but a fortnight of
Christmas. Angela and her father were sitting in a parlour that faced the
iron gates. Since their return from London Sir John had seemed uneasy when
his daughter was out of his sight; and she, perceiving his watchfulness and
trouble, had been content to abandon her favourite walks in the lanes and
woods and to the "fair hill of Brill," whence the view was so lovely and
so vast, on one side reaching to the Welsh mountains, and on another
commanding the nearer prospect of "the great fat common of Ottmoor," as
Aubrey calls it, "which in some winters is like a sea of waters." For her
father's comfort, noting the sad wistful eyes that watched her coming in
and going out, she had resigned herself to spend long melancholy
hours within doors, reading aloud till Sir John fell asleep, playing
backgammon--a game she detested worse even than shove-halfpenny, which
latter primitive game they played sometimes on the shovel-board in the
hall. Life could scarcely be sadder than Angela's life in those grey winter
days; and had it not been for an occasional ride across country with her
father, health and spirits must alike have succumbed to this monotony of
This morning, as on many mornings of late, the subject of the boy and girl
at Chilton had been discussed with the Knight's tankard of home-brewed and
his daughter's chocolate.
"Indeed, sir, it would be a cruel thing for us to abandon them. At
Montpelier we shall be a fortnight's journey from England; and if either
of those dear creatures should fall ill, dangerously ill, perhaps, their
father beyond the seas, and we, too, absent--oh, sir, figure to yourself
Henriette or George dying among strangers! A cold or a fever might carry
them off in a few days; and we should know nothing till all was over."
Sir John groaned and paced the room, agitated by the funereal image.
"Why, what a raven thou art, ever to croak dismal prophecies. The children
are strong and well, and have careful custodians. I can have no dealings
with their father. Must I tell you that a hundred times, Angela? He is a
consummate villain: and were it not that I fear to make a bigger scandal,
he or I should not have survived many hours after that iniquitous
A happy solution of this difficulty, which distressed the Knight much more
than his stubbornness allowed him to admit, was close at hand that morning,
while Angela bent over her embroidery frame, and her father spelt through
the last _London Gazette_ that the post had brought him.
The clatter of hoofs and roll of wheels announced a visit; and while they
were looking at the gate, full of wonder, since their visitors were of so
small a number, a footman in the Fareham livery pulled the iron ring that
hung by a chain from the stone pillar, and the bell rang loud and long in
the frosty air. The Fareham livery! Twice before the Fareham coaches and
liveries had taken that quiet household by surprise; but to-day terror
rather than surprise was in Angela's mind as she stood in front of the
window looking at the gate.
Could Fareham be so rash as to face her father, so daring as to seek a
farewell interview on the eve of departure? No, she told herself; such
folly was impossible. The visitor could be but one person--Henriette. Even
assured of this in her own mind, she did not rush to welcome her niece, but
stood as if turned to stone, waiting for the opening of the gate.
Old Reuben, having seen the footman, went himself to admit the visitors,
with his grandson and slave in attendance.
"It must be her little ladyship," he said, taking his young mistress's view
of the case. "Lord Fareham would never dare to show his deceiving face
A shrill voice greeted him from the coach window before he reached the
"You are the slowest old wretch I ever saw!" cried the voice. "Don't you
know that when visitors of importance come to a house they expect to be let
in? I vow a convent gate would be opened quicker."
"Indeed, your ladyship, when your legs are as old as mine----"
"Which I hope they never will be," muttered Henriette, as she descended
with a languid slowness from the coach, assisted on either side by a
footman; while George, who could not wait for her airs and graces, let
himself out at the door on the off side just as Reuben succeeded in turning
"So you are old Reuben!" he said, patting the butler on the shoulder with
the gold hilt of his riding-whip. "And you were here, like a vegetable, all
through the Civil Wars and the Commonwealth?"
"Yes, your lordship, from the raising of Hampden's regiment."
"Ah, you shall tell me all about it over a pipe and a bottle. You must be
vastly good company. I am come to live here."
"To live here, your honour?"
"Yes; sister and I are to live here while my father represents his Majesty
beyond seas. I hope you have good stabling and plenty of room. My ponies
and Mistress Henriette's Arab horse will be here to-morrow. I doubt I shall
have to build a place for my hawks; but I suppose Sir John will find me a
cottage for my Dutch falconer."
"Lord, how the young master do talk!" exclaimed Reuben, with an admiring
The boy was so rapid in his speech, had such vivacity and courage in his
face, such a spring in every movement, as if he had quicksilver in his
veins, Reuben thought; but it was only the quicksilver of youth, that
Divine ichor which lasts for so brief a season.
"It made me feel twenty years younger only to hear him prattle," Reuben
Sir John and his daughter had come to meet the children by this time,
and there were fond embracings, in the midst of which Henriette withdrew
herself from her grandfather's arms, and retired a couple of paces, in
order to drop him the Jennings curtsy, sinking almost to the ground, and
then rising from billows of silk, like Venus from the sea, and handing
him a letter, with a circular sweep of her arm, learnt in London from her
Parisian dancing mistress, an apprentice of St. Andre's, not from the
shabby little French cut-caper from Oxford.
"My father sends you this letter, sir."
"Is your father at Chilton?"
"No, sir. He was with us the day before yesterday, to bid us good-bye
before he started upon his foreign embassy," replied Henriette, struggling
with her tears, lest she should seem a child, and not the woman of fashion
she aspired to be. "He left us early in the afternoon to ride back to
London, and he takes barge this afternoon to Gravesend, to embark for
Archangel, on his way to Moscow. I doubt you know he is to be his Majesty's
Ambassador at Muscovy?"
"I know nothing but what you told me t'other day, Henriette," the Knight
answered, as they went to the house, where George began to run about on an
exploration of corridors, and then escaped to the stables, while Henriette
stood in front of the great wood fire, and warmed her hands in a stately
Angela had found no words of welcome for her niece yet. She only hugged
and kissed her, and now occupied herself unfastening the child's hood and
cloak. "How your hands shake, auntie. You must be colder than I am; though
that leathern coach lets in the wind like a sieve. I suppose my people will
know where to dispose themselves?" she added, resuming her grand air.
"Reuben will take care of them, dearest."
"Why, your voice shakes like your hands; and oh, how white you are. But you
are glad to see us, I hope?"
"Gladder than I can say, Henriette."
"I am glad you don't call me Papillon. I have left off that ridiculous
name, which I ought never to have permitted."
"I doubt, mistress, you who know so much know what is in this letter," said
Sir John, staring at Fareham's superscription as if he had come suddenly
upon an adder.
"Nay, sir, I only know that my father was shut in his library for a long
time writing, and was as white as my aunt is now when he brought it to me.
'You and George, and your gouvernante and servants, are to go to the Manor
Moat the day after to-morrow,' he said, 'and you are to give this letter
into your grandfather's hand.' I have done my duty, and await your Honour's
pleasure. Our gouvernante is not the Frenchwoman. Father dismissed her for
neglecting my education, and walking out after dark with Daniel Lettsome.
'Tis only Priscilla, who is something between a servant and a friend, and
who does everything I tell her."
"A pretty gouvernante!"
"Nay, sir, she is as plain as a pikestaff; that is one of her merits.
Mademoiselle thought herself pretty, and angled for a rich husband. Please
be so good as to read your letter, grandfather, for I believe it is about
Sir John broke the seal, and began to read the letter with a frowning brow,
which lightened as he read. Angela stood with her niece clasped in her
arms, and watched her father's countenance across the silky brown head that
nestled against her bosom.
"SIR,--Were it not in the interests of others, who must needs hold a place
in your affection second only to that they have in my heart, I should
scarce presume to address you; but it is to the grandfather of my children
I write, rather than to the gentleman whom I have so deeply offended. I
look back, sir, and repent the violence of that unhappy night; but know no
change in the melancholy passion that impelled me to crime. It would have
been better for me had I been the worst rake-hell at Whitehall, than to
have held myself aloof from the modish vices of my day, only to concentrate
all my desires and affections there, where it was most sinful to place
"Enough, sir. Did I stand alone I should have found an easy solution of all
difficulties, and you, and the lady my madness has so insulted, would have
been rid for ever of the despicable wretch who now addresses you.
"I had to remember the dear innocents who bring you this letter, and it was
of them I thought when I humbled myself to turn courtier in order to obtain
the post of Ambassador to Muscovy--in which savage place I shall be so
remote from all who ever knew me in this country, that I shall be as good
as dead; and you would have as much compunction in withholding your love
and protection from my boy and girl as if they were de facto orphans. I
send them to you, sir, unheralded. I fling them into the bosom of your
love. They are rich, and the allowance that will be paid you for them will
cover, I apprehend, all outlays on their behalf, or can be increased at
your pleasure. My lawyers, whom you know, will be at your service for all
communications; and they will spare you the pain of correspondence with me.
"I leave the nurture, education, and happiness of these, my only son and
daughter, solely in your care and authority. They have been reared in
over-much luxury, and have been spoiled by injudicious indulgence. But
their faults are trivial faults, and are all on the surface. They are
truthful, and have warm and generous hearts. I shall deem it a further
favour if you will allow their nurse, or nurse-gouvernante, Mrs. Priscilla
Baker, to remain with them, as your servant, and subject to your authority.
Their horses, ponies, hawks, and hounds, carriages, etc., must be
accommodated, or not, at your pleasure. My girl is greatly taken up with
the Arab horse I gave her on her last birthday, and I should be glad if
your stable could shelter him. I subscribe myself, perhaps for the last
"Your obedient servant, and a penitent sinner,
When he had come to the end of the letter, reading slowly and thoughtfully,
Sir John handed it to his daughter, in a dead silence.
She tried to read; but at sight of the beloved writing a rush of tears
blinded her, and she gave the letter back to her father.
"I cannot read it, sir," she sobbed; "tell me only, are we to keep the
"Yes. Henceforward they are our children; and it will be the business of
our lives to make them happy."
"If you cry, tante, I shall think you are vexed that we have come to plague
you," said Henriette, with a pretty, womanly air. "I am very sorry for
his poor lordship, for he also cried when he kissed us; but he will have
skating and sledging in Muscovy, and he will shoot bears; so he will be
IN A DEAD CALM.
The great bales and chests, and leather trunks, on the filling whereof
Sir John's household had bestowed a week's labour, were all unpacked and
cleared out of the hall, to make room for a waggon load of packages from
Chilton Abbey, which preliminary waggon was followed day after day by other
conveyances laden with other possessions of the Honourable Henriette,
or the Honourable George. The young lady's virginals, her guitar, her
embroidery frames, her books, her "babies," which the maids had packed,
although it was long since she had played with them; the young gentleman's
guns and whips, tennis rackets, bows and arrows, and a mass of
heterogeneous goods; there seemed no end to the two children's personal
property, and it was well that the old house was sufficiently spacious to
afford a wing for their occupation. They brought their gouvernante, and a
valet and maid, the falconer, and three grooms, for whom lodgings had to
be found out-of-doors. The valet and waiting-woman spent some days in
distributing and arranging all that mass of belongings; but at the end of
their labour the children's rooms looked more cheerful than their luxurious
quarters at Chilton, and the children themselves were delighted with their
"We are lodged ever so much better here than at the Abbey," George told
his grandfather. "We were ever so far away from father and mother, and
the house was under a curse, being stolen from the Church in King Henry's
reign. Once, when I had a fever, an old grey monk came and sat at the
foot of the bed, between the curtains, and wouldn't go away. He sat there
always, till I began to get well again. Father said there was nothing
there, and it was only the fever made me see him; but I know it was the
ghost of one of the monks who were flung out to starve when the Abbey was
seized by Cromwell's men. Not Oliver Cromwell, grandfather; but another bad
man of the name, who had his head cut off afterwards; though I doubt he
deserved the axe less than the Brewer did."
There was no more talk of Montpelier or exile. A new life began in the old
house in the valley, with new pleasures, new motives, new duties--a life in
which the children were paramount. These two eager young minds ruled at the
Manor Moat. For them the fish-pond teemed with carp and tench, for them
hawks flew, and hounds ran, and horses and ponies were moving from morning
till twilight; for them Sir John grew young again, and hunted fox and hare,
and rode with the hawks with all the pertinacity of youth, for whom there
is no such word as enough. For them the happy grandfather lived in his
boots from October to March, and the adoring aunt spent industrious hours
in the fabrication of flies for trout, after the recipes in Mr. Walton's
agreeable book. The whole establishment was ordered for their comfort and
pleasure; but their education and improvement were also considered in
everything. A Roman Catholic gentleman, from St. Omer, was engaged as
George's tutor, and to teach Angela and Henriette Latin and Italian,
studies in which the niece was stimulated to industry by her desire to
surpass her aunt, an ambition which her volatile spirits never allowed her
to realise. For all other learning and accomplishments Angela was her only
teacher, and as the girl grew to womanhood aunt and niece read and studied
together, like sisters, rather than like pupil and mistress; and Angela
taught Henriette to love those books which Fareham had given her, and so in
a manner the intellect of the banished father influenced the growing mind
of the child. Together, and of one opinion in all things, aunt and niece
visited and ministered to the neighbouring poor, or entertained their
genteel neighbours in a style at once friendly and elegant. No existence
could have been calmer or happier, to one who was content to renounce all