Part 2 out of 10
"I flung myself before my liege's feet," she said, "at Salisbury.
I devoted myself--my husband--my house, to his cause. Perhaps he
remembered old times, when Isabella Esmond was young and fair;
perhaps he recalled the day when 'twas not I that knelt--at least
he spoke to me with a voice that reminded ME of days gone by.
'Egad!' said his Majesty, 'you should go to the Prince of Orange;
if you want anything.' 'No, sire,' I replied, 'I would not kneel
to a Usurper; the Esmond that would have served your Majesty will
never be groom to a traitor's posset.' The royal exile smiled,
even in the midst of his misfortune; he deigned to raise me with
words of consolation. The Viscount, my husband, himself, could not
be angry at the august salute with which he honored me!"
The public misfortune had the effect of making my lord and his lady
better friends than they ever had been since their courtship. My
lord Viscount had shown both loyalty and spirit, when these were
rare qualities in the dispirited party about the King; and the
praise he got elevated him not a little in his wife's good opinion,
and perhaps in his own. He wakened up from the listless and supine
life which he had been leading; was always riding to and fro in
consultation with this friend or that of the King's; the page of
course knowing little of his doings, but remarking only his greater
cheerfulness and altered demeanor.
Father Holt came to the Hall constantly, but officiated no longer
openly as chaplain; he was always fetching and carrying: strangers,
military and ecclesiastic (Harry knew the latter, though they came
in all sorts of disguises), were continually arriving and
departing. My lord made long absences and sudden reappearances,
using sometimes the means of exit which Father Holt had employed,
though how often the little window in the Chaplain's room let in or
let out my lord and his friends, Harry could not tell. He stoutly
kept his promise to the Father of not prying, and if at midnight
from his little room he heard noises of persons stirring in the
next chamber, he turned round to the wall, and hid his curiosity
under his pillow until it fell asleep. Of course he could not help
remarking that the priest's journeys were constant, and
understanding by a hundred signs that some active though secret
business employed him: what this was may pretty well be guessed by
what soon happened to my lord.
No garrison or watch was put into Castlewood when my lord came
back, but a Guard was in the village; and one or other of them was
always on the Green keeping a look-out on our great gate, and those
who went out and in. Lockwood said that at night especially every
person who came in or went out was watched by the outlying
sentries. 'Twas lucky that we had a gate which their Worships knew
nothing about. My lord and Father Holt must have made constant
journeys at night: once or twice little Harry acted as their
messenger and discreet little aide-de-camp. He remembers he was
bidden to go into the village with his fishing-rod, enter certain
houses, ask for a drink of water, and tell the good man, "There
would be a horse-market at Newbury next Thursday," and so carry the
same message on to the next house on his list.
He did not know what the message meant at the time, nor what was
happening: which may as well, however, for clearness' sake, be
explained here. The Prince of Orange being gone to Ireland, where
the King was ready to meet him with a great army, it was determined
that a great rising of his Majesty's party should take place in
this country; and my lord was to head the force in our county. Of
late he had taken a greater lead in affairs than before, having the
indefatigable Mr. Holt at his elbow, and my Lady Viscountess
strongly urging him on; and my Lord Sark being in the Tower a
prisoner, and Sir Wilmot Crawley, of Queen's Crawley, having gone
over to the Prince of Orange's side--my lord became the most
considerable person in our part of the county for the affairs of
It was arranged that the regiment of Scots Grays and Dragoons, then
quartered at Newbury, should declare for the King on a certain day,
when likewise the gentry affected to his Majesty's cause were to
come in with their tenants and adherents to Newbury, march upon the
Dutch troops at Reading under Ginckel; and, these overthrown, and
their indomitable little master away in Ireland, 'twas thought that
our side might move on London itself, and a confident victory was
predicted for the King.
As these great matters were in agitation, my lord lost his listless
manner and seemed to gain health; my lady did not scold him, Mr.
Holt came to and fro, busy always; and little Harry longed to have
been a few inches taller, that he might draw a sword in this good
One day, it must have been about the month of July, 1690, my lord,
in a great horseman's coat, under which Harry could see the shining
of a steel breastplate he had on, called little Harry to him, put
the hair off the child's forehead, and kissed him, and bade God
bless him in such an affectionate way as he never had used before.
Father Holt blessed him too, and then they took leave of my Lady
Viscountess, who came from her apartment with a pocket-handkerchief
to her eyes, and her gentlewoman and Mrs. Tusher supporting her.
"You are going to--to ride," says she. "Oh, that I might come too--
but in my situation I am forbidden horse exercise."
"We kiss my Lady Marchioness's hand," says Mr. Holt.
"My lord, God speed you!" she said, stepping up and embracing my
lord in a grand manner. "Mr. Holt, I ask your blessing:" and she
knelt down for that, whilst Mrs. Tusher tossed her head up.
Mr. Holt gave the same benediction to the little page, who went
down and held my lord's stirrups for him to mount; there were two
servants waiting there too--and they rode out of Castlewood gate.
As they crossed the bridge, Harry could see an officer in scarlet
ride up touching his hat, and address my lord.
The party stopped, and came to some parley or discussion, which
presently ended, my lord putting his horse into a canter after
taking off his hat and making a bow to the officer, who rode
alongside him step for step: the trooper accompanying him falling
back, and riding with my lord's two men. They cantered over the
Green, and behind the elms (my lord waving his hand, Harry
thought), and so they disappeared. That evening we had a great
panic, the cow-boy coming at milking-time riding one of our horses,
which he had found grazing at the outer park-wall.
All night my Lady Viscountess was in a very quiet and subdued mood.
She scarce found fault with anybody; she played at cards for six
hours; little page Esmond went to sleep. He prayed for my lord and
the good cause before closing his eyes.
It was quite in the gray of the morning when the porter's bell
rang, and old Lockwood, waking up, let in one of my lord's
servants, who had gone with him in the morning, and who returned
with a melancholy story. The officer who rode up to my lord had,
it appeared, said to him, that it was his duty to inform his
lordship that he was not under arrest, but under surveillance, and
to request him not to ride abroad that day.
My lord replied that riding was good for his health, that if the
Captain chose to accompany him he was welcome; and it was then that
he made a bow, and they cantered away together.
When he came on to Wansey Down, my lord all of a sudden pulled up,
and the party came to a halt at the cross-way.
"Sir," says he to the officer, "we are four to two; will you be so
kind as to take that road, and leave me go mine?"
"Your road is mine, my lord," says the officer.
"Then--" says my lord; but he had no time to say more, for the
officer, drawing a pistol, snapped it at his lordship; as at the
same moment Father Holt, drawing a pistol, shot the officer through
the head. It was done, and the man dead in an instant of time.
The orderly, gazing at the officer, looked seared for a moment, and
galloped away for his life.
"Fire! fire!" cries out Father Holt, sending another shot after the
trooper, but the two servants were too much surprised to use their
pieces, and my lord calling to them to hold their hands, the fellow
"Mr. Holt, qui pensait a tout," says Blaise, "gets off his horse,
examines the pockets of the dead officer for papers, gives his
money to us two, and says, 'The wine is drawn, M. le Marquis,'--why
did he say Marquis to M. le Vicomte?--'we must drink it.'
"The poor gentleman's horse was a better one than that I rode,"
Blaise continues; "Mr. Holt bids me get on him, and so I gave a cut
to Whitefoot, and she trotted home. We rode on towards Newbury; we
heard firing towards midday: at two o'clock a horseman comes up to
us as we were giving our cattle water at an inn--and says, 'All is
done! The Ecossais declared an hour too soon--General Ginckel was
down upon them.' The whole thing was at an end.
"'And we've shot an officer on duty, and let his orderly escape,'
says my lord.
"'Blaise,' says Mr. Holt, writing two lines on his table-book, one
for my lady and one for you, Master Harry; 'you must go back to
Castlewood, and deliver these,' and behold me."
And he gave Harry the two papers. He read that to himself, which
only said, "Burn the papers in the cupboard, burn this. You know
nothing about anything." Harry read this, ran up stairs to his
mistress's apartment, where her gentlewoman slept near to the door,
made her bring a light and wake my lady, into whose hands he gave
the paper. She was a wonderful object to look at in her night
attire, nor had Harry ever seen the like.
As soon as she had the paper in her hand, Harry stepped back to the
Chaplain's room, opened the secret cupboard over the fireplace,
burned all the papers in it, and, as he had seen the priest do
before, took down one of his reverence's manuscript sermons, and
half burnt that in the brazier. By the time the papers were quite
destroyed it was daylight. Harry ran back to his mistress again.
Her gentlewoman ushered him again into her ladyship's chamber; she
told him (from behind her nuptial curtains) to bid the coach be got
ready, and that she would ride away anon.
But the mysteries of her ladyship's toilet were as awfully long on
this day as on any other, and, long after the coach was ready, my
lady was still attiring herself. And just as the Viscountess
stepped forth from her room, ready for departure, young John
Lockwood comes running up from the village with news that a lawyer,
three officers, and twenty or four-and-twenty soldiers, were
marching thence upon the house. John had but two minutes the start
of them, and, ere he had well told his story, the troop rode into
THE ISSUE OF THE PLOTS.--THE DEATH OF THOMAS, THIRD VISCOUNT OF
CASTLEWOOD; AND THE IMPRISONMENT OF HIS VISCOUNTESS.
At first my lady was for dying like Mary, Queen of Scots (to whom
she fancied she bore a resemblance in beauty), and, stroking her
scraggy neck, said, "They will find Isabel of Castlewood is equal
to her fate." Her gentlewoman, Victoire, persuaded her that her
prudent course was, as she could not fly, to receive the troops as
though she suspected nothing, and that her chamber was the best
place wherein to await them. So her black Japan casket, which
Harry was to carry to the coach, was taken back to her ladyship's
chamber, whither the maid and mistress retired. Victoire came out
presently, bidding the page to say her ladyship was ill, confined
to her bed with the rheumatism.
By this time the soldiers had reached Castlewood. Harry Esmond saw
them from the window of the tapestry parlor; a couple of sentinels
were posted at the gate--a half-dozen more walked towards the
stable; and some others, preceded by their commander, and a man in
black, a lawyer probably, were conducted by one of the servants to
the stair leading up to the part of the house which my lord and
So the Captain, a handsome kind man, and the lawyer, came through
the ante-room to the tapestry parlor, and where now was nobody but
young Harry Esmond, the page.
"Tell your mistress, little man," says the Captain, kindly, "that
we must speak to her."
"My mistress is ill a-bed," said the page.
"What complaint has she?" asked the Captain.
The boy said, "The rheumatism!"
"Rheumatism! that's a sad complaint," continues the good-natured
Captain; "and the coach is in the yard to fetch the Doctor, I
"I don't know," says the boy.
"And how long has her ladyship been ill?"
"I don't know," says the boy.
"When did my lord go away?"
"With Father Holt?"
"With Mr. Holt."
"And which way did they travel?" asks the lawyer.
"They travelled without me," says the page.
"We must see Lady Castlewood."
"I have orders that nobody goes in to her ladyship--she is sick,"
says the page; but at this moment Victoire came out. "Hush!" says
she; and, as if not knowing that any one was near, "What's this
noise?" says she. "Is this gentleman the Doctor?"
"Stuff! we must see Lady Castlewood," says the lawyer, pushing by.
The curtains of her ladyship's room were down, and the chamber
dark, and she was in bed with a nightcap on her head, and propped
up by her pillows, looking none the less ghastly because of the red
which was still on her cheeks, and which she could not afford to
"Is that the Doctor?" she said.
"There is no use with this deception, madam," Captain Westbury said
(for so he was named). "My duty is to arrest the person of Thomas,
Viscount Castlewood, a nonjuring peer--of Robert Tusher, Vicar of
Castlewood--and Henry Holt, known under various other names and
designations, a Jesuit priest, who officiated as chaplain here in
the late king's time, and is now at the head of the conspiracy
which was about to break out in this country against the authority
of their Majesties King William and Queen Mary--and my orders are
to search the house for such papers or traces of the conspiracy as
may be found here. Your ladyship will please give me your keys,
and it will be as well for yourself that you should help us, in
every way, in our search."
"You see, sir, that I have the rheumatism, and cannot move," said
the lady, looking uncommonly ghastly as she sat up in her bed,
where, however, she had had her cheeks painted, and a new cap put
on, so that she might at least look her best when the officers
"I shall take leave to place a sentinel in the chamber, so that
your ladyship, in case you should wish to rise, may have an arm to
lean on," Captain Westbury said. "Your woman will show me where I
am to look;" and Madame Victoire, chattering in her half French and
half English jargon, opened while the Captain examined one drawer
after another; but, as Harry Esmond thought, rather carelessly,
with a smile on his face, as if he was only conducting the
examination for form's sake.
Before one of the cupboards Victoire flung herself down, stretching
out her arms, and, with a piercing shriek, cried, "Non, jamais,
monsieur l'officier! Jamais! I will rather die than let you see
But Captain Westbury would open it, still with a smile on his face,
which, when the box was opened, turned into a fair burst of
laughter. It contained--not papers regarding the conspiracy--but
my lady's wigs, washes, and rouge-pots, and Victoire said men were
monsters, as the Captain went on with his perquisition. He tapped
the back to see whether or no it was hollow, and as he thrust his
hands into the cupboard, my lady from her bed called out, with a
voice that did not sound like that of a very sick woman, "Is it
your commission to insult ladies as well as to arrest gentlemen,
"These articles are only dangerous when worn by your ladyship," the
Captain said, with a low bow, and a mock grin of politeness. "I
have found nothing which concerns the Government as yet--only the
weapons with which beauty is authorized to kill," says he, pointing
to a wig with his sword-tip. "We must now proceed to search the
rest of the house."
"You are not going to leave that wretch in the room with me," cried
my lady, pointing to the soldier.
"What can I do, madam? Somebody you must have to smooth your
pillow and bring your medicine--permit me--"
"Sir!" screamed out my lady.
"Madam, if you are too ill to leave the bed," the Captain then
said, rather sternly, "I must have in four of my men to lift you
off in the sheet. I must examine this bed, in a word; papers may
be hidden in a bed as elsewhere; we know that very well and * * *."
Here it was her ladyship's turn to shriek, for the Captain, with
his fist shaking the pillows and bolsters, at last came to "burn"
as they say in the play of forfeits, and wrenching away one of the
pillows, said, "Look! did not I tell you so? Here is a pillow
stuffed with paper."
"Some villain has betrayed us," cried out my lady, sitting up in
the bed, showing herself full dressed under her night-rail.
"And now your ladyship can move, I am sure; permit me to give you
my hand to rise. You will have to travel for some distance, as far
as Hexton Castle to-night. Will you have your coach? Your woman
shall attend you if you like--and the japan-box?"
"Sir! you don't strike a MAN when he is down," said my lady, with
some dignity: "can you not spare a woman?"
"Your ladyship must please to rise, and let me search the bed,"
said the Captain; "there is no more time to lose in bandying talk."
And, without more ado, the gaunt old woman got up. Harry Esmond
recollected to the end of his life that figure, with the brocade
dress and the white night-rail, and the gold-clocked red stockings,
and white red-heeled shoes, sitting up in the bed, and stepping
down from it. The trunks were ready packed for departure in her
ante-room, and the horses ready harnessed in the stable: about all
which the Captain seemed to know, by information got from some
quarter or other; and whence Esmond could make a pretty shrewd
guess in after-times, when Dr. Tusher complained that King
William's government had basely treated him for services done in
And here he may relate, though he was then too young to know all
that was happening, what the papers contained, of which Captain
Westbury had made a seizure, and which papers had been transferred
from the japan-box to the bed when the officers arrived.
There was a list of gentlemen of the county in Father Holt's hand
writing--Mr. Freeman's (King James's) friends--a similar paper
being found among those of Sir John Fenwick and Mr. Coplestone, who
suffered death for this conspiracy.
There was a patent conferring the title of Marquis of Esmond on my
Lord Castlewood and the heirs-male of his body; his appointment as
Lord-Lieutenant of the County, and Major-General.*
* To have this rank of Marquis restored in the family had always
been my Lady Viscountess's ambition; and her old maiden aunt,
Barbara Topham, the goldsmith's daughter, dying about this time,
and leaving all her property to Lady Castlewood, I have heard that
her ladyship sent almost the whole of the money to King James, a
proceeding which so irritated my Lord Castlewood that he actually
went to the parish church, and was only appeased by the Marquis's
title which his exiled Majesty sent to him in return for the
15,000L. his faithful subject lent him.
There were various letters from the nobility and gentry, some
ardent and some doubtful, in the King's service; and (very luckily
for him) two letters concerning Colonel Francis Esmond: one from
Father Holt, which said, "I have been to see this Colonel at his
house at Walcote, near to Wells, where he resides since the King's
departure, and pressed him very eagerly in Mr. Freeman's cause,
showing him the great advantage he would have by trading with that
merchant, offering him large premiums there as agreed between us.
But he says no: he considers Mr. Freeman the head of the firm, will
never trade against him or embark with any other trading company,
but considers his duty was done when Mr. Freeman left England.
This Colonel seems to care more for his wife and his beagles than
for affairs. He asked me much about young H. E., 'that bastard,'
as he called him; doubting my lord's intentions respecting him. I
reassured him on this head, stating what I knew of the lad, and our
intentions respecting him, but with regard to Freeman he was
And another letter was from Colonel Esmond to his kinsman, to say
that one Captain Holton had been with him offering him large bribes
to join, YOU KNOW WHO, and saying that the head of the house of
Castlewood was deeply engaged in that quarter. But for his part he
had broke his sword when the K. left the country, and would never
again fight in that quarrel. The P. of O. was a man, at least, of
a noble courage, and his duty, and, as he thought, every
Englishman's, was to keep the country quiet, and the French out of
it: and, in fine, that he would have nothing to do with the scheme.
Of the existence of these two letters and the contents of the
pillow, Colonel Frank Esmond, who became Viscount Castlewood, told
Henry Esmond afterwards, when the letters were shown to his
lordship, who congratulated himself, as he had good reason, that he
had not joined in the scheme which proved so fatal to many
concerned in it. But, naturally, the lad knew little about these
circumstances when they happened under his eyes: only being aware
that his patron and his mistress were in some trouble, which had
caused the flight of the one and the apprehension of the other by
the officers of King William.
The seizure of the papers effected, the gentlemen did not pursue
their further search through Castlewood House very rigorously.
They examined Mr. Holt's room, being led thither by his pupil, who
showed, as the Father had bidden him, the place where the key of
his chamber lay, opened the door for the gentlemen, and conducted
them into the room.
When the gentlemen came to the half-burned papers in the brazier,
they examined them eagerly enough, and their young guide was a
little amused at their perplexity.
"What are these?" says one.
"They're written in a foreign language," says the lawyer. "What
are you laughing at, little whelp?" adds he, turning round as he
saw the boy smile.
"Mr. Holt said they were sermons," Harry said, "and bade me to burn
them;" which indeed was true of those papers.
"Sermons indeed--it's treason, I would lay a wager," cries the
"Egad! it's Greek to me," says Captain Westbury. "Can you read it,
"Yes, sir, a little," Harry said.
"Then read, and read in English, sir, on your peril," said the
lawyer. And Harry began to translate:--
"Hath not one of your own writers said, 'The children of Adam are
now laboring as much as he himself ever did, about the tree of the
knowledge of good and evil, shaking the boughs thereof, and seeking
the fruit, being for the most part unmindful of the tree of life.'
Oh blind generation! 'tis this tree of knowledge to which the
serpent has led you"--and here the boy was obliged to stop, the
rest of the page being charred by the fire: and asked of the
lawyer--"Shall I go on, sir?"
The lawyer said--"This boy is deeper than he seems: who knows that
he is not laughing at us?"
"Let's have in Dick the Scholar," cried Captain Westbury, laughing:
and he called to a trooper out of the window--"Ho, Dick, come in
here and construe."
A thick-set soldier, with a square good-humored face, came in at
the summons, saluting his officer.
"Tell us what is this, Dick," says the lawyer.
"My name is Steele, sir," says the soldier. "I may be Dick for my
friends, but I don't name gentlemen of your cloth amongst them."
"Well then, Steele."
"Mr. Steele, sir, if you please. When you address a gentleman of
his Majesty's Horse Guards, be pleased not to be so familiar."
"I didn't know, sir," said the lawyer.
"How should you? I take it you are not accustomed to meet with
gentlemen," says the trooper.
"Hold thy prate, and read that bit of paper," says Westbury.
"'Tis Latin," says Dick, glancing at it, and again saluting his
officer, "and from a sermon of Mr. Cudworth's," and he translated
the words pretty much as Henry Esmond had rendered them.
"What a young scholar you are," says the Captain to the boy.
"Depend on't, he knows more than he tells," says the lawyer. "I
think we will pack him off in the coach with old Jezebel."
"For construing a bit of Latin?" said the Captain, very good-
"I would as lief go there as anywhere," Harry Esmond said, simply,
"for there is nobody to care for me."
There must have been something touching in the child's voice, or in
this description of his solitude--for the Captain looked at him
very good-naturedly, and the trooper, called Steele, put his hand
kindly on the lad's head, and said some words in the Latin tongue.
"What does he say?" says the lawyer.
"Faith, ask Dick himself," cried Captain Westbury.
"I said I was not ignorant of misfortune myself, and had learned to
succor the miserable, and that's not YOUR trade, Mr. Sheepskin,"
said the trooper.
"You had better leave Dick the Scholar alone, Mr. Corbet," the
Captain said. And Harry Esmond, always touched by a kind face and
kind word, felt very grateful to this good-natured champion.
The horses were by this time harnessed to the coach; and the
Countess and Victoire came down and were put into the vehicle.
This woman, who quarrelled with Harry Esmond all day, was melted at
parting with him, and called him "dear angel," and "poor infant,"
and a hundred other names.
The Viscountess, giving him her lean hand to kiss, bade him always
be faithful to the house of Esmond. "If evil should happen to my
lord," says she, "his SUCCESSOR, I trust, will be found, and give
you protection. Situated as I am, they will not dare wreak their
vengeance on me NOW." And she kissed a medal she wore with great
fervor, and Henry Esmond knew not in the least what her meaning
was; but hath since learned that, old as she was, she was for ever
expecting, by the good offices of saints and relics, to have an
heir to the title of Esmond.
Harry Esmond was too young to have been introduced into the secrets
of politics in which his patrons were implicated; for they put but
few questions to the boy (who was little of stature, and looked
much younger than his age), and such questions as they put he
answered cautiously enough, and professing even more ignorance than
he had, for which his examiners willingly enough gave him credit.
He did not say a word about the window or the cupboard over the
fireplace; and these secrets quite escaped the eyes of the
So then my lady was consigned to her coach, and sent off to Hexton,
with her woman and the man of law to bear her company, a couple of
troopers riding on either side of the coach. And Harry was left
behind at the Hall, belonging as it were to nobody, and quite alone
in the world. The captain and a guard of men remained in
possession there; and the soldiers, who were very good-natured and
kind, ate my lord's mutton and drank his wine, and made themselves
comfortable, as they well might do in such pleasant quarters.
The captains had their dinner served in my lord's tapestry parlor,
and poor little Harry thought his duty was to wait upon Captain
Westbury's chair, as his custom had been to serve his lord when he
After the departure of the Countess, Dick the Scholar took Harry
Esmond under his special protection, and would examine him in his
humanities and talk to him both of French and Latin, in which
tongues the lad found, and his new friend was willing enough to
acknowledge, that he was even more proficient than Scholar Dick.
Hearing that he had learned them from a Jesuit, in the praise of
whom and whose goodness Harry was never tired of speaking, Dick,
rather to the boy's surprise, who began to have an early
shrewdness, like many children bred up alone, showed a great deal
of theological science, and knowledge of the points at issue
between the two churches; so that he and Harry would have hours of
controversy together, in which the boy was certainly worsted by the
arguments of this singular trooper. "I am no common soldier," Dick
would say, and indeed it was easy to see by his learning, breeding,
and many accomplishments, that he was not. I am of one of the most
ancient families in the empire; I have had my education at a famous
school, and a famous university; I learned my first rudiments of
Latin near to Smithfield, in London, where the martyrs were roasted."
"You hanged as many of ours," interposed Harry; "and, for the
matter of persecution, Father Holt told me that a young gentleman
of Edinburgh, eighteen years of age, student at the college there,
was hanged for heresy only last year, though he recanted, and
solemnly asked pardon for his errors."
"Faith! there has been too much persecution on both sides: but
'twas you taught us."
"Nay, 'twas the Pagans began it," cried the lad, and began to
instance a number of saints of the Church, from the proto-martyr
downwards--"this one's fire went out under him: that one's oil
cooled in the caldron: at a third holy head the executioner chopped
three times and it would not come off. Show us martyrs in YOUR
church for whom such miracles have been done."
"Nay," says the trooper gravely, "the miracles of the first three
centuries belong to my Church as well as yours, Master Papist," and
then added, with something of a smile upon his countenance, and a
queer look at Harry--"And yet, my little catechiser, I have
sometimes thought about those miracles, that there was not much
good in them, since the victim's head always finished by coming off
at the third or fourth chop, and the caldron, if it did not boil
one day, boiled the next. Howbeit, in our times, the Church has
lost that questionable advantage of respites. There never was a
shower to put out Ridley's fire, nor an angel to turn the edge of
Campion's axe. The rack tore the limbs of Southwell the Jesuit and
Sympson the Protestant alike. For faith, everywhere multitudes die
willingly enough. I have read in Monsieur Rycaut's 'History of the
Turks,' of thousands of Mahomet's followers rushing upon death in
battle as upon certain Paradise; and in the great Mogul's dominions
people fling themselves by hundreds under the cars of the idols
annually, and the widows burn themselves on their husbands' bodies,
as 'tis well known. 'Tis not the dying for a faith that's so hard,
Master Harry--every man of every nation has done that--'tis the
living up to it that is difficult, as I know to my cost," he added
with a sigh. "And ah!" he added, "my poor lad, I am not strong
enough to convince thee by my life--though to die for my religion
would give me the greatest of joys--but I had a dear friend in
Magdalen College in Oxford; I wish Joe Addison were here to
convince thee, as he quickly could--for I think he's a match for
the whole College of Jesuits; and what's more, in his life too. In
that very sermon of Dr. Cudworth's which your priest was quoting
from, and which suffered martydom in the brazier,"--Dick added with
a smile, "I had a thought of wearing the black coat (but was
ashamed of my life, you see, and took to this sorry red one); I
have often thought of Joe Addison--Dr. Cudworth says, 'A good
conscience is the best looking-glass of heaven'--and there's
serenity in my friend's face which always reflects it--I wish you
could see him, Harry."
"Did he do you a great deal of good?" asked the lad, simply.
"He might have done," said the other--"at least he taught me to see
and approve better things. 'Tis my own fault, deteriora sequi."
"You seem very good," the boy said.
"I'm not what I seem, alas!" answered the trooper--and indeed, as
it turned out, poor Dick told the truth--for that very night, at
supper in the hall, where the gentlemen of the troop took their
repasts, and passed most part of their days dicing and smoking of
tobacco, and singing and cursing, over the Castlewood ale--Harry
Esmond found Dick the Scholar in a woful state of drunkenness. He
hiccupped out a sermon and his laughing companions bade him sing a
hymn, on which Dick, swearing he would run the scoundrel through
the body who insulted his religion, made for his sword, which was
hanging on the wall, and fell down flat on the floor under it,
saying to Harry, who ran forward to help him, "Ah, little Papist, I
wish Joseph Addison was here!"
Though the troopers of the King's Life-Guards were all gentlemen,
yet the rest of the gentlemen seemed ignorant and vulgar boors to
Harry Esmond, with the exception of this good-natured Corporal
Steele the Scholar, and Captain Westbury and Lieutenant Trant, who
were always kind to the lad. They remained for some weeks or
months encamped in Castlewood, and Harry learned from them, from
time to time, how the lady at Hexton Castle was treated, and the
particulars of her confinement there. 'Tis known that King William
was disposed to deal very leniently with the gentry who remained
faithful to the old King's cause; and no prince usurping a crown,
as his enemies said he did, (righteously taking it, as I think
now,) ever caused less blood to be shed. As for women-conspirators,
he kept spies on the least dangerous, and locked up the others.
Lady Castlewood had the best rooms in Hexton Castle, and the
gaoler's garden to walk in; and though she repeatedly desired to be
led out to execution, like Mary Queen of Scots, there never was any
thought of taking her painted old head off, or any desire to do
aught but keep her person in security.
And it appeared she found that some were friends in her misfortune,
whom she had, in her prosperity, considered as her worst enemies.
Colonel Francis Esmond, my lord's cousin and her ladyship's, who
had married the Dean of Winchester's daughter, and, since King
James's departure out of England, had lived not very far away from
Hexton town, hearing of his kinswoman's strait, and being friends
with Colonel Brice, commanding for King William in Hexton, and with
the Church dignitaries there, came to visit her ladyship in prison,
offering to his uncle's daughter any friendly services which lay in
his power. And he brought his lady and little daughter to see the
prisoner, to the latter of whom, a child of great beauty and many
winning ways, the old Viscountess took not a little liking,
although between her ladyship and the child's mother there was
little more love than formerly. There are some injuries which
women never forgive one another; and Madam Francis Esmond, in
marrying her cousin, had done one of those irretrievable wrongs to
Lady Castlewood. But as she was now humiliated, and in misfortune,
Madam Francis could allow a truce to her enmity, and could be kind
for a while, at least, to her husband's discarded mistress. So the
little Beatrix, her daughter, was permitted often to go and visit
the imprisoned Viscountess, who, in so far as the child and its
father were concerned, got to abate in her anger towards that
branch of the Castlewood family. And the letters of Colonel Esmond
coming to light, as has been said, and his conduct being known to
the King's council, the Colonel was put in a better position with
the existing government than he had ever before been; any
suspicions regarding his loyalty were entirely done away; and so he
was enabled to be of more service to his kinswoman than he could
otherwise have been.
And now there befell an event by which this lady recovered her
liberty, and the house of Castlewood got a new owner, and
fatherless little Harry Esmond a new and most kind protector and
friend. Whatever that secret was which Harry was to hear from my
lord, the boy never heard it; for that night when Father Holt
arrived, and carried my lord away with him, was the last on which
Harry ever saw his patron. What happened to my lord may be briefly
told here. Having found the horses at the place where they were
lying, my lord and Father Holt rode together to Chatteris, where
they had temporary refuge with one of the Father's penitents in
that city; but the pursuit being hot for them, and the reward for
the apprehension of one or the other considerable, it was deemed
advisable that they should separate; and the priest betook himself
to other places of retreat known to him, whilst my lord passed over
from Bristol into Ireland, in which kingdom King James had a court
and an army. My lord was but a small addition to this; bringing,
indeed, only his sword and the few pieces in his pocket; but the
King received him with some kindness and distinction in spite of
his poor plight, confirmed him in his new title of Marquis, gave
him a regiment, and promised him further promotion. But titles or
promotion were not to benefit him now. My lord was wounded at the
fatal battle of the Boyne, flying from which field (long after his
master had set him an example) he lay for a while concealed in the
marshy country near to the town of Trim, and more from catarrh and
fever caught in the bogs than from the steel of the enemy in the
battle, sank and died. May the earth lie light upon Thomas of
Castlewood! He who writes this must speak in charity, though this
lord did him and his two grievous wrongs: for one of these he would
have made amends, perhaps, had life been spared him; but the other
lay beyond his power to repair, though 'tis to be hoped that a
greater Power than a priest has absolved him of it. He got the
comfort of this absolution, too, such as it was: a priest of Trim
writing a letter to my lady to inform her of this calamity.
But in those days letters were slow of travelling, and our priest's
took two months or more on its journey from Ireland to England:
where, when it did arrive, it did not find my lady at her own
house; she was at the King's house of Hexton Castle when the letter
came to Castlewood, but it was opened for all that by the officer
in command there.
Harry Esmond well remembered the receipt of this letter, which
Lockwood brought in as Captain Westbury and Lieutenant Trant were
on the green playing at bowls, young Esmond looking on at the
sport, or reading his book in the arbor.
"Here's news for Frank Esmond," says Captain Westbury; "Harry, did
you ever see Colonel Esmond?" And Captain Westbury looked very
hard at the boy as he spoke.
Harry said he had seen him but once when he was at Hexton, at the
"And did he say anything?"
"He said what I don't care to repeat," Harry answered. For he was
now twelve years of age: he knew what his birth was, and the
disgrace of it; and he felt no love towards the man who had most
likely stained his mother's honor and his own.
"Did you love my Lord Castlewood?"
"I wait until I know my mother, sir, to say," the boy answered, his
eyes filling with tears.
"Something has happened to Lord Castlewood," Captain Westbury said
in a very grave tone--"something which must happen to us all. He
is dead of a wound received at the Boyne, fighting for King James."
"I am glad my lord fought for the right cause," the boy said.
"It was better to meet death on the field like a man, than face it
on Tower-hill, as some of them may," continued Mr. Westbury. "I
hope he has made some testament, or provided for thee somehow.
This letter says he recommends unicum filium suum dilectissimum to
his lady. I hope he has left you more than that."
Harry did not know, he said. He was in the hands of Heaven and
Fate; but more lonely now, as it seemed to him, than he had been
all the rest of his life; and that night, as he lay in his little
room which he still occupied, the boy thought with many a pang of
shame and grief of his strange and solitary condition: how he had a
father and no father; a nameless mother that had been brought to
ruin, perhaps, by that very father whom Harry could only
acknowledge in secret and with a blush, and whom he could neither
love nor revere. And he sickened to think how Father Holt, a
stranger, and two or three soldiers, his acquaintances of the last
six weeks, were the only friends he had in the great wide world,
where he was now quite alone. The soul of the boy was full of
love, and he longed as he lay in the darkness there for some one
upon whom he could bestow it. He remembers, and must to his dying
day, the thoughts and tears of that long night, the hours tolling
through it. Who was he, and what? Why here rather than elsewhere?
I have a mind, he thought, to go to that priest at Trim, and find
out what my father said to him on his death-bed confession. Is
there any child in the whole world so unprotected as I am? Shall I
get up and quit this place, and run to Ireland? With these
thoughts and tears the lad passed that night away until he wept
himself to sleep.
The next day, the gentlemen of the guard, who had heard what had
befallen him, were more than usually kind to the child, especially
his friend Scholar Dick, who told him about his own father's death,
which had happened when Dick was a child at Dublin, not quite five
years of age. "That was the first sensation of grief," Dick said,
"I ever knew. I remember I went into the room where his body lay,
and my mother sat weeping beside it. I had my battledore in my
hand, and fell a-beating the coffin, and calling Papa; on which my
mother caught me in her arms, and told me in a flood of tears Papa
could not hear me, and would play with me no more, for they were
going to put him under ground, whence he could never come to us
again. And this," said Dick kindly, "has made me pity all children
ever since; and caused me to love thee, my poor fatherless,
motherless lad. And, if ever thou wantest a friend, thou shalt
have one in Richard Steele."
Harry Esmond thanked him, and was grateful. But what could
Corporal Steele do for him? take him to ride a spare horse, and be
servant to the troop? Though there might be a bar in Harry
Esmond's shield, it was a noble one. The counsel of the two
friends was, that little Harry should stay where he was, and abide
his fortune: so Esmond stayed on at Castlewood, awaiting with no
small anxiety the fate, whatever it was, which was over him.
I AM LEFT AT CASTLEWOOD AN ORPHAN, AND FIND MOST KIND PROTECTORS
During the stay of the soldiers in Castlewood, honest Dick the
Scholar was the constant companion of the lonely little orphan lad
Harry Esmond: and they read together, and they played bowls
together, and when the other troopers or their officers, who were
free-spoken over their cups, (as was the way of that day, when
neither men nor women were over-nice,) talked unbecomingly of their
amours and gallantries before the child, Dick, who very likely was
setting the whole company laughing, would stop their jokes with a
maxima debetur pueris reverentia, and once offered to lug out
against another trooper called Hulking Tom, who wanted to ask Harry
Esmond a ribald question.
Also, Dick seeing that the child had, as he said, a sensibility
above his years, and a great and praiseworthy discretion, confided
to Harry his love for a vintner's daughter, near to the Tollyard,
Westminster, whom Dick addressed as Saccharissa in many verses of
his composition, and without whom he said it would be impossible
that he could continue to live. He vowed this a thousand times in
a day, though Harry smiled to see the love-lorn swain had his
health and appetite as well as the most heart-whole trooper in the
regiment: and he swore Harry to secrecy too, which vow the lad
religiously kept, until he found that officers and privates were
all taken into Dick's confidence, and had the benefit of his
verses. And it must be owned likewise that, while Dick was sighing
after Saccharissa in London, he had consolations in the country;
for there came a wench out of Castlewood village who had washed his
linen, and who cried sadly when she heard he was gone: and without
paying her bill too, which Harry Esmond took upon himself to
discharge by giving the girl a silver pocket-piece, which Scholar
Dick had presented to him, when, with many embraces and prayers for
his prosperity, Dick parted from him, the garrison of Castlewood
being ordered away. Dick the Scholar said he would never forget
his young friend, nor indeed did he: and Harry was sorry when the
kind soldiers vacated Castlewood, looking forward with no small
anxiety (for care and solitude had made him thoughtful beyond his
years) to his fate when the new lord and lady of the house came to
live there. He had lived to be past twelve years old now; and had
never had a friend, save this wild trooper, perhaps, and Father
Holt; and had a fond and affectionate heart, tender to weakness,
that would fain attach itself to somebody, and did not seem at rest
until it had found a friend who would take charge of it.
The instinct which led Henry Esmond to admire and love the gracious
person, the fair apparition of whose beauty and kindness had so
moved him when he first beheld her, became soon a devoted affection
and passion of gratitude, which entirely filled his young heart,
that as yet, except in the case of dear Father Holt, had had very
little kindness for which to be thankful. O Dea certe, thought he,
remembering the lines out of the AEneas which Mr. Holt had taught
him. There seemed, as the boy thought, in every look or gesture of
this fair creature, an angelical softness and bright pity--in
motion or repose she seemed gracious alike; the tone of her voice,
though she uttered words ever so trivial, gave him a pleasure that
amounted almost to anguish. It cannot be called love, that a lad
of twelve years of age, little more than a menial, felt for an
exalted lady, his mistress: but it was worship. To catch her
glance, to divine her errand and run on it before she had spoken
it; to watch, follow, adore her; became the business of his life.
Meanwhile, as is the way often, his idol had idols of her own, and
never thought of or suspected the admiration of her little pigmy
My lady had on her side her three idols: first and foremost, Jove
and supreme ruler, was her lord, Harry's patron, the good Viscount
of Castlewood. All wishes of his were laws with her. If he had a
headache, she was ill. If he frowned, she trembled. If he joked,
she smiled and was charmed. If he went a-hunting, she was always
at the window to see him ride away, her little son crowing on her
arm, or on the watch till his return. She made dishes for his
dinner: spiced wine for him: made the toast for his tankard at
breakfast: hushed the house when he slept in his chair, and watched
for a look when he woke. If my lord was not a little proud of his
beauty, my lady adored it. She clung to his arm as he paced the
terrace, her two fair little hands clasped round his great one; her
eyes were never tired of looking in his face and wondering at its
perfection. Her little son was his son, and had his father's look
and curly brown hair. Her daughter Beatrix was his daughter, and
had his eyes--were there ever such beautiful eyes in the world?
All the house was arranged so as to bring him ease and give him
pleasure. She liked the small gentry round about to come and pay
him court, never caring for admiration for herself; those who
wanted to be well with the lady must admire him. Not regarding her
dress, she would wear a gown to rags, because he had once liked it:
and, if he brought her a brooch or a ribbon, would prefer it to all
the most costly articles of her wardrobe.
My lord went to London every year for six weeks, and the family
being too poor to appear at Court with any figure, he went alone.
It was not until he was out of sight that her face showed any
sorrow: and what a joy when he came back! What preparation before
his return! The fond creature had his arm-chair at the chimney-
side--delighting to put the children in it, and look at them there.
Nobody took his place at the table; but his silver tankard stood
there as when my lord was present.
A pretty sight it was to see, during my lord's absence, or on those
many mornings when sleep or headache kept him a-bed, this fair
young lady of Castlewood, her little daughter at her knee, and her
domestics gathered round her, reading the Morning Prayer of the
English Church. Esmond long remembered how she looked and spoke,
kneeling reverently before the sacred book, the sun shining upon
her golden hair until it made a halo round about her. A dozen of
the servants of the house kneeled in a line opposite their
mistress; for a while Harry Esmond kept apart from these mysteries,
but Doctor Tusher showing him that the prayers read were those of
the Church of all ages, and the boy's own inclination prompting him
to be always as near as he might to his mistress, and to think all
things she did right, from listening to the prayers in the ante-
chamber, he came presently to kneel down with the rest of the
household in the parlor; and before a couple of years my lady had
made a thorough convert. Indeed, the boy loved his catechiser so
much that he would have subscribed to anything she bade him, and
was never tired of listening to her fond discourse and simple
comments upon the book, which she read to him in a voice of which
it was difficult to resist the sweet persuasion and tender
appealing kindness. This friendly controversy, and the intimacy
which it occasioned, bound the lad more fondly than ever to his
mistress. The happiest period of all his life was this; and the
young mother, with her daughter and son, and the orphan lad whom
she protected, read and worked and played, and were children
together. If the lady looked forward--as what fond woman does
not?--towards the future, she had no plans from which Harry Esmond
was left out; and a thousand and a thousand times, in his
passionate and impetuous way, he vowed that no power should
separate him from his mistress; and only asked for some chance to
happen by which he might show his fidelity to her. Now, at the
close of his life, as he sits and recalls in tranquillity the happy
and busy scenes of it, he can think, not ungratefully, that he has
been faithful to that early vow. Such a life is so simple that
years may be chronicled in a few lines. But few men's life-voyages
are destined to be all prosperous; and this calm of which we are
speaking was soon to come to an end.
As Esmond grew, and observed for himself, he found of necessity
much to read and think of outside that fond circle of kinsfolk who
had admitted him to join hand with them. He read more books than
they cared to study with him; was alone in the midst of them many a
time, and passed nights over labors, futile perhaps, but in which
they could not join him. His dear mistress divined his thoughts
with her usual jealous watchfulness of affection: began to forebode
a time when he would escape from his home-nest; and, at his eager
protestations to the contrary, would only sigh and shake her head.
Before those fatal decrees in life are executed, there are always
secret previsions and warning omens. When everything yet seems
calm, we are aware that the storm is coming. Ere the happy days
were over, two at least of that home-party felt that they were
drawing to a close; and were uneasy, and on the look-out for the
cloud which was to obscure their calm.
'Twas easy for Harry to see, however much his lady persisted in
obedience and admiration for her husband, that my lord tired of his
quiet life, and grew weary, and then testy, at those gentle bonds
with which his wife would have held him. As they say the Grand
Lama of Thibet is very much fatigued by his character of divinity,
and yawns on his altar as his bonzes kneel and worship him, many a
home-god grows heartily sick of the reverence with which his
family-devotees pursue him, and sighs for freedom and for his old
life, and to be off the pedestal on which his dependants would have
him sit for ever, whilst they adore him, and ply him with flowers,
and hymns, and incense, and flattery;--so, after a few years of his
marriage my honest Lord Castlewood began to tire; all the high-
flown raptures and devotional ceremonies with which his wife, his
chief priestess, treated him, first sent him to sleep, and then
drove him out of doors; for the truth must be told, that my lord
was a jolly gentleman, with very little of the august or divine in
his nature, though his fond wife persisted in revering it--and,
besides, he had to pay a penalty for this love, which persons of
his disposition seldom like to defray: and, in a word, if he had a
loving wife, had a very jealous and exacting one. Then he wearied
of this jealousy; then he broke away from it; then came, no doubt,
complaints and recriminations; then, perhaps, promises of amendment
not fulfilled; then upbraidings not the more pleasant because they
were silent, and only sad looks and tearful eyes conveyed them.
Then, perhaps, the pair reached that other stage which is not
uncommon in married life, when the woman perceives that the god of
the honeymoon is a god no more; only a mortal like the rest of us--
and so she looks into her heart, and lo! vacuae sedes et inania
arcana. And now, supposing our lady to have a fine genius and a
brilliant wit of her own, and the magic spell and infatuation
removed from her which had led her to worship as a god a very
ordinary mortal--and what follows? They live together, and they
dine together, and they say "my dear" and "my love" as heretofore;
but the man is himself, and the woman herself: that dream of love
is over as everything else is over in life; as flowers and fury,
and griefs and pleasures, are over.
Very likely the Lady Castlewood had ceased to adore her husband
herself long before she got off her knees, or would allow her
household to discontinue worshipping him. To do him justice, my
lord never exacted this subservience: he laughed and joked and
drank his bottle, and swore when he was angry, much too familiarly
for any one pretending to sublimity; and did his best to destroy
the ceremonial with which his wife chose to surround him. And it
required no great conceit on young Esmond's part to see that his
own brains were better than his patron's, who, indeed, never
assumed any airs of superiority over the lad, or over any dependant
of his, save when he was displeased, in which case he would express
his mind in oaths very freely; and who, on the contrary, perhaps,
spoiled "Parson Harry," as he called young Esmond, by constantly
praising his parts and admiring his boyish stock of learning.
It may seem ungracious in one who has received a hundred favors
from his patron to speak in any but a reverential manner of his
elders; but the present writer has had descendants of his own, whom
he has brought up with as little as possible of the servility at
present exacted by parents from children (under which mask of duty
there often lurks indifference, contempt, or rebellion): and as he
would have his grandsons believe or represent him to be not an inch
taller than Nature has made him: so, with regard to his past
acquaintances, he would speak without anger, but with truth, as far
as he knows it, neither extenuating nor setting down aught in
So long, then, as the world moved according to Lord Castlewood's
wishes, he was good-humored enough; of a temper naturally sprightly
and easy, liking to joke, especially with his inferiors, and
charmed to receive the tribute of their laughter. All exercises of
the body he could perform to perfection--shooting at a mark and
flying, breaking horses, riding at the ring, pitching the quoit,
playing at all games with great skill. And not only did he do
these things well, but he thought he did them to perfection; hence
he was often tricked about horses, which he pretended to know
better than any jockey; was made to play at ball and billiards by
sharpers who took his money, and came back from London wofully
poorer each time than he went, as the state of his affairs
testified when the sudden accident came by which his career was
brought to an end.
He was fond of the parade of dress, and passed as many hours daily
at his toilette as an elderly coquette. A tenth part of his day
was spent in the brushing of his teeth and the oiling of his hair,
which was curling and brown, and which he did not like to conceal
under a periwig, such as almost everybody of that time wore. (We
have the liberty of our hair back now, but powder and pomatum along
with it. When, I wonder, will these monstrous poll-taxes of our
age be withdrawn, and men allowed to carry their colors, black,
red, or gray, as Nature made them?) And as he liked her to be well
dressed, his lady spared no pains in that matter to please him;
indeed, she would dress her head or cut it off if he had bidden her.
It was a wonder to young Esmond, serving as page to my lord and
lady, to hear, day after day, to such company as came, the same
boisterous stories told by my lord, at which his lady never failed
to smile or hold down her head, and Doctor Tusher to burst out
laughing at the proper point, or cry, "Fie, my lord, remember my
cloth!" but with such a faint show of resistance, that it only
provoked my lord further. Lord Castlewood's stories rose by
degrees, and became stronger after the ale at dinner and the bottle
afterwards; my lady always taking flight after the very first glass
to Church and King, and leaving the gentlemen to drink the rest of
the toasts by themselves.
And, as Harry Esmond was her page, he also was called from duty at
this time. "My lord has lived in the army and with soldiers," she
would say to the lad, "amongst whom great license is allowed. You
have had a different nurture, and I trust these things will change
as you grow older; not that any fault attaches to my lord, who is
one of the best and most religious men in this kingdom." And very
likely she believed so. 'Tis strange what a man may do, and a
woman yet think him an angel.
And as Esmond has taken truth for his motto, it must be owned, even
with regard to that other angel, his mistress, that she had a fault
of character which flawed her perfections. With the other sex
perfectly tolerant and kindly, of her own she was invariably
jealous; and a proof that she had this vice is, that though she
would acknowledge a thousand faults that she had not, to this which
she had she could never be got to own. But if there came a woman
with even a semblance of beauty to Castlewood, she was so sure to
find out some wrong in her, that my lord, laughing in his jolly
way, would often joke with her concerning her foible. Comely
servant-maids might come for hire, but none were taken at
Castlewood. The housekeeper was old; my lady's own waiting-woman
squinted, and was marked with the small-pox; the housemaids and
scullion were ordinary country wenches, to whom Lady Castlewood was
kind, as her nature made her to everybody almost; but as soon as
ever she had to do with a pretty woman, she was cold, retiring, and
haughty. The country ladies found this fault in her; and though
the men all admired her, their wives and daughters complained of
her coldness and aims, and said that Castlewood was pleasanter in
Lady Jezebel's time (as the dowager was called) than at present.
Some few were of my mistress's side. Old Lady Blenkinsop Jointure,
who had been at court in King James the First's time, always took
her side; and so did old Mistress Crookshank, Bishop Crookshank's
daughter, of Hexton, who, with some more of their like, pronounced
my lady an angel: but the pretty women were not of this mind; and
the opinion of the country was that my lord was tied to his wife's
apron-strings, and that she ruled over him.
The second fight which Harry Esmond had, was at fourteen years of
age, with Bryan Hawkshaw, Sir John Hawkshaw's son, of Bramblebrook,
who, advancing this opinion, that my lady was jealous and henpecked
my lord, put Harry in such a fury, that Harry fell on him and with
such rage, that the other boy, who was two years older and by far
bigger than he, had by far the worst of the assault, until it was
interrupted by Doctor Tusher walking out of the dinner-room.
Bryan Hawkshaw got up bleeding at the nose, having, indeed, been
surprised, as many a stronger man might have been, by the fury of
the assault upon him.
"You little bastard beggar!" he said, "I'll murder you for this!"
And indeed he was big enough.
"Bastard or not," said the other, grinding his teeth, "I have a
couple of swords, and if you like to meet me, as a man, on the
And here the Doctor coming up, the colloquy of the young champions
ended. Very likely, big as he was, Hawkshaw did not care to
continue a fight with such a ferocious opponent as this had been.
AFTER GOOD FORTUNE COMES EVIL.
Since my Lady Mary Wortley Montagu brought home the custom of
inoculation from Turkey (a perilous practice many deem it, and only
a useless rushing into the jaws of danger), I think the severity of
the small-pox, that dreadful scourge of the world, has somewhat
been abated in our part of it; and remember in my time hundreds of
the young and beautiful who have been carried to the grave, or have
only risen from their pillows frightfully scarred and disfigured by
this malady. Many a sweet face hath left its roses on the bed on
which this dreadful and withering blight has laid them. In my
early days, this pestilence would enter a village and destroy half
its inhabitants: at its approach, it may well be imagined, not only
the beautiful but the strongest were alarmed, and those fled who
could. One day in the year 1694 (I have good reason to remember
it), Doctor Tusher ran into Castlewood House, with a face of
consternation, saying that the malady had made its appearance at
the blacksmith's house in the village, and that one of the maids
there was down in the small-pox.
The blacksmith, besides his forge and irons for horses, had an ale-
house for men, which his wife kept, and his company sat on benches
before the inn-door, looking at the smithy while they drank their
beer. Now, there was a pretty girl at this inn, the landlord's men
called Nancy Sievewright, a bouncing, fresh-looking lass, whose
face was as red as the hollyhocks over the pales of the garden
behind the inn. At this time Harry Esmond was a lad of sixteen,
and somehow in his walks and rambles it often happened that he fell
in with Nancy Sievewright's bonny face; if he did not want
something done at the blacksmith's he would go and drink ale at the
"Three Castles," or find some pretext for seeing this poor Nancy.
Poor thing, Harry meant or imagined no harm; and she, no doubt, as
little, but the truth is they were always meeting--in the lanes, or
by the brook, or at the garden-palings, or about Castlewood: it
was, "Lord, Mr. Henry!" and "how do you do, Nancy?" many and many a
time in the week. 'Tis surprising the magnetic attraction which
draws people together from ever so far. I blush as I think of poor
Nancy now, in a red bodice and buxom purple cheeks and a canvas
petticoat; and that I devised schemes, and set traps, and made
speeches in my heart, which I seldom had courage to say when in
presence of that humble enchantress, who knew nothing beyond
milking a cow, and opened her black eyes with wonder when I made
one of my fine speeches out of Waller or Ovid. Poor Nancy! from
the midst of far-off years thine honest country face beams out; and
I remember thy kind voice as if I had heard it yesterday.
When Doctor Tusher brought the news that the small-pox was at the
"Three Castles," whither a tramper, it was said, had brought the
malady, Henry Esmond's first thought was of alarm for poor Nancy,
and then of shame and disquiet for the Castlewood family, lest he
might have brought this infection; for the truth is that Mr. Harry
had been sitting in a back room for an hour that day, where Nancy
Sievewright was with a little brother who complained of headache,
and was lying stupefied and crying, either in a chair by the corner
of the fire, or in Nancy's lap, or on mine.
Little Lady Beatrix screamed out at Dr. Tusher's news; and my lord
cried out, "God bless me!" He was a brave man, and not afraid of
death in any shape but this. He was very proud of his pink
complexion and fair hair--but the idea of death by small-pox scared
him beyond all other ends. "We will take the children and ride
away to-morrow to Walcote:" this was my lord's small house,
inherited from his mother, near to Winchester.
"That is the best refuge in case the disease spreads," said Dr.
Tusher. "'Tis awful to think of it beginning at the ale-house;
half the people of the village have visited that to-day, or the
blacksmith's, which is the same thing. My clerk Nahum lodges with
them--I can never go into my reading-desk and have that fellow so
near me. I WON'T have that man near me."
"If a parishioner dying in the small-pox sent to you, would you not
go?" asked my lady, looking up from her frame of work, with her
calm blue eyes.
"By the Lord, I wouldn't," said my lord.
"We are not in a popish country; and a sick man doth not absolutely
need absolution and confession," said the Doctor. "'Tis true they
are a comfort and a help to him when attainable, and to be
administered with hope of good. But in a case where the life of a
parish priest in the midst of his flock is highly valuable to them,
he is not called upon to risk it (and therewith the lives, future
prospects, and temporal, even spiritual welfare of his own family)
for the sake of a single person, who is not very likely in a
condition even to understand the religious message whereof the
priest is the bringer--being uneducated, and likewise stupefied or
delirious by disease. If your ladyship or his lordship, my
excellent good friend and patron, were to take it . . ."
"God forbid!" cried my lord.
"Amen," continued Dr. Tusher. "Amen to that prayer, my very good
lord! for your sake I would lay my life down"--and, to judge from
the alarmed look of the Doctor's purple face, you would have
thought that that sacrifice was about to be called for instantly.
To love children, and be gentle with them, was an instinct, rather
than a merit, in Henry Esmond; so much so, that he thought almost
with a sort of shame of his liking for them, and of the softness
into which it betrayed him; and on this day the poor fellow had not
only had his young friend, the milkmaid's brother, on his knee, but
had been drawing pictures and telling stories to the little Frank
Castlewood, who had occupied the same place for an hour after
dinner, and was never tired of Henry's tales, and his pictures of
soldiers and horses. As luck would have it, Beatrix had not on
that evening taken her usual place, which generally she was glad
enough to have, upon her tutor's lap. For Beatrix, from the
earliest time, was jealous of every caress which was given to her
little brother Frank. She would fling away even from the maternal
arms, if she saw Frank had been there before her; insomuch that
Lady Esmond was obliged not to show her love for her son in the
presence of the little girl, and embraced one or the other alone.
She would turn pale and red with rage if she caught signs of
intelligence or affection between Frank and his mother: would sit
apart, and not speak for a whole night, if she thought the boy had
a better fruit or a larger cake than hers; would fling away a
ribbon if he had one; and from the earliest age, sitting up in her
little chair by the great fireplace opposite to the corner where
Lady Castlewood commonly sat at her embroidery, would utter
infantine sarcasms about the favor shown to her brother. These, if
spoken in the presence of Lord Castlewood, tickled and amused his
humor; he would pretend to love Frank best, and dandle and kiss
him, and roar with laughter at Beatrix's jealousy. But the truth
is, my lord did not often witness these scenes, nor very much
trouble the quiet fireside at which his lady passed many long
evenings. My lord was hunting all day when the season admitted; he
frequented all the cock-fights and fairs in the country, and would
ride twenty miles to see a main fought, or two clowns break their
heads at a cudgelling-match; and he liked better to sit in his
parlor drinking ale and punch with Jack and Tom, than in his wife's
drawing-room: whither, if he came, he brought only too often
bloodshot eyes, a hiccupping voice, and a reeling gait. The
management of the house, and the property, the care of the few
tenants and the village poor, and the accounts of the estate, were
in the hands of his lady and her young secretary, Harry Esmond. My
lord took charge of the stables, the kennel, and the cellar--and he
filled this and emptied it too.
So it chanced that upon this very day, when poor Harry Esmond had
had the blacksmith's son, and the peer's son, alike upon his knee,
little Beatrix, who would come to her tutor willingly enough with
her book and her writing, had refused him, seeing the place
occupied by her brother, and, luckily for her, had sat at the
further end of the room, away from him, playing with a spaniel dog
which she had, (and for which, by fits and starts, she would take a
great affection,) and talking at Harry Esmond over her shoulder, as
she pretended to caress the dog, saying that Fido would love her,
and she would love Fido, and nothing but Fido all her life.
When, then, the news was brought that the little boy at the "Three
Castles" was ill with the small-pox, poor Harry Esmond felt a shock
of alarm, not so much for himself as for his mistress's son, whom
he might have brought into peril. Beatrix, who had pouted
sufficiently, (and who, whenever a stranger appeared, began, from
infancy almost, to play off little graces to catch his attention,)
her brother being now gone to bed, was for taking her place upon
Esmond's knee: for, though the Doctor was very obsequious to her,
she did not like him, because he had thick boots and dirty hands
(the pert young miss said), and because she hated learning the
But as she advanced towards Esmond from the corner where she had
been sulking, he started back and placed the great chair on which
he was sitting between him and her--saying in the French language
to Lady Castlewood, with whom the young lad had read much, and whom
he had perfected in this tongue--Madam, the child must not approach
me; I must tell you that I was at the blacksmith's to-day, and had
his little boy upon my lap."
"Where you took my son afterwards," Lady Castlewood said, very
angry, and turning red. "I thank you, sir, for giving him such
company. Beatrix," she said in English, "I forbid you to touch Mr.
Esmond. Come away, child--come to your room. Come to your room--I
wish your Reverence good-night--and you, sir, had you not better go
back to your friends at the ale-house?" her eyes, ordinarily so
kind, darted flashes of anger as she spoke; and she tossed up her
head (which hung down commonly) with the mien of a princess.
"Hey-day!" says my lord, who was standing by the fireplace--indeed
he was in the position to which he generally came by that hour of
the evening--"Hey-day! Rachel, what are you in a passion about?
Ladies ought never to be in a passion. Ought they, Doctor Tusher?
though it does good to see Rachel in a passion--Damme, Lady
Castlewood, you look dev'lish handsome in a passion."
"It is, my lord, because Mr. Henry Esmond, having nothing to do
with his time here, and not having a taste for our company, has
been to the ale-house, where he has SOME FRIENDS."
My lord burst out, with a laugh and an oath--"You young slyboots,
you've been at Nancy Sievewright. D--- the young hypocrite, who'd
have thought it in him? I say, Tusher, he's been after--"
"Enough, my lord," said my lady, "don't insult me with this talk."
"Upon my word," said poor Harry, ready to cry with shame and
mortification, "the honor of that young person is perfectly
unstained for me."
"Oh, of course, of course," says my lord, more and more laughing
and tipsy. "Upon his HONOR, Doctor--Nancy Sieve-- . . ."
"Take Mistress Beatrix to bed," my lady cried at this moment to
Mrs. Tucker her woman, who came in with her ladyship's tea. "Put
her into my room--no, into yours," she added quickly. "Go, my
child: go, I say: not a word!" And Beatrix, quite surprised at so
sudden a tone of authority from one who was seldom accustomed to
raise her voice, went out of the room with a scared countenance,
and waited even to burst out a-crying until she got to the door
with Mrs. Tucker.
For once her mother took little heed of her sobbing, and continued
to speak eagerly--"My lord," she said, "this young man--your
dependant--told me just now in French--he was ashamed to speak in
his own language--that he had been at the ale-house all day, where
he has had that little wretch who is now ill of the small-pox on
his knee. And he comes home reeking from that place--yes, reeking
from it--and takes my boy into his lap without shame, and sits down
by me, yes, by ME. He may have killed Frank for what I know--
killed our child. Why was he brought in to disgrace our house?
Why is he here? Let him go--let him go, I say, to-night, and
pollute the place no more."
She had never once uttered a syllable of unkindness to Harry
Esmond; and her cruel words smote the poor boy, so that he stood
for some moments bewildered with grief and rage at the injustice of
such a stab from such a hand. He turned quite white from red,
which he had been.
"I cannot help my birth, madam," he said, "nor my other misfortune.
And as for your boy, if--if my coming nigh to him pollutes him now,
it was not so always. Good-night, my lord. Heaven bless you and
yours for your goodness to me. I have tired her ladyship's
kindness out, and I will go;" and, sinking down on his knee, Harry
Esmond took the rough hand of his benefactor and kissed it.
"He wants to go to the ale-house--let him go," cried my lady.
"I'm d--d if he shall," said my lord. "I didn't think you could be
so d--d ungrateful, Rachel."
Her reply was to burst into a flood of tears, and to quit the room
with a rapid glance at Harry Esmond,--as my lord, not heeding them,
and still in great good-humor, raised up his young client from his
kneeling posture (for a thousand kindnesses had caused the lad to
revere my lord as a father), and put his broad hand on Harry
"She was always so," my lord said; "the very notion of a woman
drives her mad. I took to liquor on that very account, by Jove,
for no other reason than that; for she can't be jealous of a beer-
barrel or a bottle of rum, can she, Doctor? D--- it, look at the
maids--just look at the maids in the house" (my lord pronounced all
the words together--just-look-at-the-maze-in-the-house: jever-see-
such-maze?) "You wouldn't take a wife out of Castlewood now, would
you, Doctor?" and my lord burst out laughing.
The Doctor, who had been looking at my Lord Castlewood from under
his eyelids, said, "But joking apart, and, my lord, as a divine, I
cannot treat the subject in a jocular light, nor, as a pastor of
this congregation, look with anything but sorrow at the idea of so
very young a sheep going astray."
"Sir," said young Esmond, bursting out indignantly, "she told me
that you yourself were a horrid old man, and had offered to kiss
her in the dairy."
"For shame, Henry," cried Doctor Tusher, turning as red as a
turkey-cock, while my lord continued to roar with laughter. "If
you listen to the falsehoods of an abandoned girl--"
"She is as honest as any woman in England, and as pure for me,"
cried out Henry, "and, as kind, and as good. For shame on you to
"Far be it from me to do so," cried the Doctor. "Heaven grant I
may be mistaken in the girl, and in you, sir, who have a truly
PRECOCIOUS genius; but that is not the point at issue at present.
It appears that the small-pox broke out in the little boy at the
'Three Castles;' that it was on him when you visited the ale-house,
for your OWN reasons; and that you sat with the child for some
time, and immediately afterwards with my young lord." The Doctor
raised his voice as he spoke, and looked towards my lady, who had
now come back, looking very pale, with a handkerchief in her hand.
"This is all very true, sir," said Lady Esmond, looking at the
"'Tis to be feared that he may have brought the infection with him."
"From the ale-house--yes," said my lady.
"D--- it, I forgot when I collared you, boy," cried my lord,
stepping back. "Keep off, Harry my boy; there's no good in running
into the wolf's jaws, you know."
My lady looked at him with some surprise, and instantly advancing
to Henry Esmond, took his hand. "I beg your pardon, Henry," she
said; "I spoke very unkindly. I have no right to interfere with
My lord broke out into an oath. "Can't you leave the boy alone, my
lady?" She looked a little red, and faintly pressed the lad's hand
as she dropped it.
"There is no use, my lord," she said; "Frank was on his knee as he
was making pictures, and was running constantly from Henry to me.
The evil is done, if any."
"Not with me, damme," cried my lord. "I've been smoking,"--and he
lighted his pipe again with a coal--"and it keeps off infection;
and as the disease is in the village--plague take it--I would have
you leave it. We'll go to-morrow to Walcote, my lady."
"I have no fear," said my lady; "I may have had it as an infant: it
broke out in our house then; and when four of my sisters had it at
home, two years before our marriage, I escaped it, and two of my
dear sisters died."
"I won't run the risk," said my lord; "I'm as bold as any man, but
I'll not bear that."
"Take Beatrix with you and go," said my lady. "For us the mischief
is done; and Tucker can wait upon us, who has had the disease."
"You take care to choose 'em ugly enough," said my lord, at which
her ladyship hung down her head and looked foolish: and my lord,
calling away Tusher, bade him come to the oak parlor and have a
pipe. The Doctor made a low bow to her ladyship (of which salaams
he was profuse), and walked off on his creaking square-toes after
When the lady and the young man were alone, there was a silence of
some moments, during which he stood at the fire, looking rather
vacantly at the dying embers, whilst her ladyship busied herself
with the tambour-frame and needles.
"I am sorry," she said, after a pause, in a hard, dry voice,--"I
REPEAT I am sorry that I showed myself so ungrateful for the safety
of my son. It was not at all my wish that you should leave us, I
am sure, unless you found pleasure elsewhere. But you must
perceive, Mr. Esmond, that at your age, and with your tastes, it is
impossible that you can continue to stay upon the intimate footing
in which you have been in this family. You have wished to go to
the University, and I think 'tis quite as well that you should be
sent thither. I did not press this matter, thinking you a child,
as you are, indeed, in years--quite a child; and I should never
have thought of treating you otherwise until--until these
CIRCUMSTANCES came to light. And I shall beg my lord to despatch
you as quick as possible: and will go on with Frank's learning as
well as I can, (I owe my father thanks for a little grounding, and
you, I'm sure, for much that you have taught me,)--and--and I wish
you a good-night, Mr. Esmond."
And with this she dropped a stately curtsy, and, taking her candle,
went away through the tapestry door, which led to her apartments.
Esmond stood by the fireplace, blankly staring after her. Indeed,
he scarce seemed to see until she was gone; and then her image was
impressed upon him, and remained for ever fixed upon his memory.
He saw her retreating, the taper lighting up her marble face, her
scarlet lip quivering, and her shining golden hair. He went to his
own room, and to bed, where he tried to read, as his custom was;
but he never knew what he was reading until afterwards he
remembered the appearance of the letters of the book (it was in
Montaigne's Essays), and the events of the day passed before him--
that is, of the last hour of the day; for as for the morning, and
the poor milkmaid yonder, he never so much as once thought. And he
could not get to sleep until daylight, and woke with a violent
headache, and quite unrefreshed.
He had brought the contagion with him from the "Three Castles" sure
enough, and was presently laid up with the smallpox, which spared
the hall no more than it did the cottage.
I HAVE THE SMALL-POX, AND PREPARE TO LEAVE CASTLEWOOD.
When Harry Esmond passed through the crisis of that malady, and
returned to health again, he found that little Frank Esmond had
also suffered and rallied after the disease, and the lady his
mother was down with it, with a couple more of the household. "It
was a Providence, for which we all ought to be thankful," Doctor
Tusher said, "that my lady and her son were spared, while Death
carried off the poor domestics of the house;" and rebuked Harry for
asking, in his simple way, For which we ought to be thankful--that
the servants were killed, or the gentlefolks were saved? Nor could
young Esmond agree in the Doctor's vehement protestations to my
lady, when he visited her during her convalescence, that the malady
had not in the least impaired her charms, and had not been churl
enough to injure the fair features of the Viscountess of
Castlewood; whereas, in spite of these fine speeches, Harry thought
that her ladyship's beauty was very much injured by the small-pox.
When the marks of the disease cleared away, they did not, it is
true, leave furrows or scars on her face (except one, perhaps, on
her forehead over her left eyebrow); but the delicacy of her rosy
color and complexion was gone: her eyes had lost their brilliancy,
her hair fell, and her face looked older. It was as if a coarse
hand had rubbed off the delicate tints of that sweet picture, and
brought it, as one has seen unskilful painting-cleaners do, to the
dead color. Also, it must be owned, that for a year or two after
the malady, her ladyship's nose was swollen and redder.
There would be no need to mention these trivialities, but that they
actually influenced many lives, as trifles will in the world, where
a gnat often plays a greater part than an elephant, and a mole-
hill, as we know in King William's case, can upset an empire. When
Tusher in his courtly way (at which Harry Esmond always chafed and
spoke scornfully) vowed and protested that my lady's face was none
the worse--the lad broke out and said, "It IS worse and my mistress
is not near so handsome as she was;" on which poor Lady Castlewood
gave a rueful smile, and a look into a little Venice glass she had,
which showed her, I suppose, that what the stupid boy said was only
too true, for she turned away from the glass, and her eyes filled
The sight of these in Esmond's heart always created a sort of rage
of pity, and seeing them on the face of the lady whom he loved
best, the young blunderer sank down on his knees, and besought her
to pardon him, saying that he was a fool and an idiot, that he was
a brute to make such a speech, he who had caused her malady; and
Doctor Tusher told him that a bear he was indeed, and a bear he
would remain, at which speech poor young Esmond was so dumbstricken
that he did not even growl.
"He is MY bear, and I will not have him baited, Doctor," my lady
said, patting her hand kindly on the boy's head, as he was still
kneeling at her feet. "How your hair has come off! And mine,
too," she added with another sigh.
"It is not for myself that I cared," my lady said to Harry, when
the parson had taken his leave; "but AM I very much changed? Alas!
I fear 'tis too true."
"Madam, you have the dearest, and kindest, and sweetest face in the
world, I think," the lad said; and indeed he thought and thinks so.
"Will my lord think so when he comes back?" the lady asked with a
sigh, and another look at her Venice glass. "Suppose he should
think as you do, sir, that I am hideous--yes, you said hideous--he
will cease to care for me. 'Tis all men care for in women, our
little beauty. Why did he select me from among my sisters? 'Twas
only for that. We reign but for a day or two: and be sure that
Vashti knew Esther was coming."
"Madam," said Mr. Esmond, "Ahasuerus was the Grand Turk, and to
change was the manner of his country, and according to his law."
"You are all Grand Turks for that matter," said my lady, "or would
be if you could. Come, Frank, come, my child. You are well,
praised be Heaven. YOUR locks are not thinned by this dreadful
small-pox: nor your poor face scarred--is it, my angel?"
Frank began to shout and whimper at the idea of such a misfortune.
From the very earliest time the young lord had been taught to
admire his beauty by his mother: and esteemed it as highly as any
reigning toast valued hers.
One day, as he himself was recovering from his fever and illness, a
pang of something like shame shot across young Esmond's breast, as
he remembered that he had never once during his illness given a
thought to the poor girl at the smithy, whose red cheeks but a
month ago he had been so eager to see. Poor Nancy! her cheeks had
shared the fate of roses, and were withered now. She had taken the
illness on the same day with Esmond--she and her brother were both
dead of the small-pox, and buried under the Castlewood yew-trees.
There was no bright face looking now from the garden, or to cheer
the old smith at his lonely fireside. Esmond would have liked to
have kissed her in her shroud (like the lass in Mr. Prior's pretty
poem); but she rested many a foot below the ground, when Esmond
after his malady first trod on it.
Doctor Tusher brought the news of this calamity, about which Harry
Esmond longed to ask, but did not like. He said almost the whole
village had been stricken with the pestilence; seventeen persons
were dead of it, among them mentioning the names of poor Nancy and
her little brother. He did not fail to say how thankful we
survivors ought to be. It being this man's business to flatter and
make sermons, it must be owned he was most industrious in it, and
was doing the one or the other all day.
And so Nancy was gone; and Harry Esmond blushed that he had not a
single tear for her, and fell to composing an elegy in Latin verses
over the rustic little beauty. He bade the dryads mourn and the
river-nymphs deplore her. As her father followed the calling of
Vulcan, he said that surely she was like a daughter of Venus,
though Sievewright's wife was an ugly shrew, as he remembered to
have heard afterwards. He made a long face, but, in truth, felt
scarcely more sorrowful than a mute at a funeral. These first
passions of men and women are mostly abortive; and are dead almost
before they are born. Esmond could repeat, to his last day, some
of the doggerel lines in which his muse bewailed his pretty lass;
not without shame to remember how bad the verses were, and how good
he thought them; how false the grief, and yet how he was rather
proud of it. 'Tis an error, surely, to talk of the simplicity of
youth. I think no persons are more hypocritical, and have a more
affected behavior to one another, than the young. They deceive
themselves and each other with artifices that do not impose upon
men of the world; and so we get to understand truth better, and
grow simpler as we grow older.
When my lady heard of the fate which had befallen poor Nancy, she
said nothing so long as Tusher was by, but when he was gone, she
took Harry Esmond's hand and said--
"Harry, I beg your pardon for those cruel words I used on the night
you were taken ill. I am shocked at the fate of the poor creature,
and am sure that nothing had happened of that with which, in my
anger, I charged you. And the very first day we go out, you must
take me to the blacksmith, and we must see if there is anything I
can do to console the poor old man. Poor man! to lose both his
children! What should I do without mine?"
And this was, indeed, the very first walk which my lady took,
leaning on Esmond's arm, after her illness. But her visit brought
no consolation to the old father; and he showed no softness, or
desire to speak. "The Lord gave and took away," he said; and he
knew what His servant's duty was. He wanted for nothing--less now
than ever before, as there were fewer mouths to feed. He wished
her ladyship and Master Esmond good morning--he had grown tall in
his illness, and was but very little marked; and with this, and a
surly bow, he went in from the smithy to the house, leaving my
lady, somewhat silenced and shamefaced, at the door. He had a
handsome stone put up for his two children, which may be seen in
Castlewood churchyard to this very day; and before a year was out
his own name was upon the stone. In the presence of Death, that
sovereign ruler, a woman's coquetry is seared; and her jealousy
will hardly pass the boundaries of that grim kingdom. 'Tis
entirely of the earth, that passion, and expires in the cold blue
air, beyond our sphere.
At length, when the danger was quite over, it was announced that my
lord and his daughter would return. Esmond well remembered the
day. The lady his mistress was in a flurry of fear: before my lord
came, she went into her room, and returned from it with reddened
cheeks. Her fate was about to be decided. Her beauty was gone--
was her reign, too, over? A minute would say. My lord came riding
over the bridge--he could be seen from the great window, clad in
scarlet, and mounted on his gray hackney--his little daughter
ambled by him in a bright riding-dress of blue, on a shining
chestnut horse. My lady leaned against the great mantel-piece,
looking on, with one hand on her heart--she seemed only the more
pale for those red marks on either cheek. She put her handkerchief
to her eyes, and withdrew it, laughing hysterically--the cloth was
quite red with the rouge when she took it away. She ran to her
room again, and came back with pale cheeks and red eyes--her son in
her hand--just as my lord entered, accompanied by young Esmond, who
had gone out to meet his protector, and to hold his stirrup as he
descended from horseback.
"What, Harry, boy!" my lord said, good-naturedly, "you look as
gaunt as a greyhound. The small-pox hasn't improved your beauty,
and your side of the house hadn't never too much of it--ho, ho!"
And he laughed, and sprang to the ground with no small agility,
looking handsome and red, within a jolly face and brown hair, like
a Beef-eater; Esmond kneeling again, as soon as his patron had
descended, performed his homage, and then went to greet the little
Beatrix, and help her from her horse.
"Fie! how yellow you look," she said; "and there are one, two, red
holes in your face;" which, indeed, was very true; Harry Esmond's
harsh countenance bearing, as long as it continued to be a human
face, the marks of the disease.
My lord laughed again, in high good-humor.
"D--- it!" said he, with one of his usual oaths, "the little slut
sees everything. She saw the Dowager's paint t'other day, and
asked her why she wore that red stuff--didn't you, Trix? and the
Tower; and St. James's; and the play; and the Prince George, and
the Princess Anne--didn't you, Trix?"
"They are both very fat, and smelt of brandy," the child said.
Papa roared with laughing.
"Brandy!" he said. "And how do you know, Miss Pert?"
"Because your lordship smells of it after supper, when I embrace
you before you go to bed," said the young lady, who, indeed, was as
pert as her father said, and looked as beautiful a little gipsy as
eyes ever gazed on.
"And now for my lady," said my lord, going up the stairs, and
passing under the tapestry curtain that hung before the drawing-
room door. Esmond remembered that noble figure, handsomely arrayed
in scarlet. Within the last few months he himself had grown from a
boy to be a man, and with his figure his thoughts had shot up, and
My lady's countenance, of which Harry Esmond was accustomed to
watch the changes, and with a solicitous affection to note and
interpret the signs of gladness or care, wore a sad and depressed
look for many weeks after her lord's return: during which it seemed
as if, by caresses and entreaties, she strove to win him back from
some ill humor he had, and which he did not choose to throw off.
In her eagerness to please him she practised a hundred of those
arts which had formerly charmed him, but which seemed now to have
lost their potency. Her songs did not amuse him; and she hushed
them and the children when in his presence. My lord sat silent at
his dinner, drinking greatly, his lady opposite to him, looking
furtively at his face, though also speechless. Her silence annoyed
him as much as her speech; and he would peevishly, and with an
oath, ask her why she held her tongue and looked so glum; or he
would roughly check her when speaking, and bid her not talk
nonsense. It seemed as if, since his return, nothing she could do
or say could please him.
When a master and mistress are at strife in a house, the
subordinates in the family take the one side or the other. Harry
Esmond stood in so great fear of my lord, that he would run a
league barefoot to do a message for him; but his attachment for
Lady Esmond was such a passion of grateful regard, that to spare
her a grief, or to do her a service, he would have given his life
daily: and it was by the very depth and intensity of this regard
that he began to divine how unhappy his adored lady's life was, and
that a secret care (for she never spoke of her anxieties) was
weighing upon her.
Can any one, who has passed through the world and watched the
nature of men and women there, doubt what had befallen her? I have
seen, to be sure, some people carry down with them into old age the
actual bloom of their youthful love, and I know that Mr. Thomas
Parr lived to be a hundred and sixty years old. But, for all that,
threescore and ten is the age of men, and few get beyond it; and
'tis certain that a man who marries for mere beaux yeux, as my lord
did, considers this part of the contract at an end when the woman
ceases to fulfil hers, and his love does not survive her beauty. I
know 'tis often otherwise, I say; and can think (as most men in
their own experience may) of many a house, where, lighted in early
years, the sainted lamp of love hath never been extinguished; but
so there is Mr. Parr, and so there is the great giant at the fair
that is eight feet high--exceptions to men--and that poor lamp
whereof I speak, that lights at first the nuptial chamber, is
extinguished by a hundred winds and draughts down the chimney, or
sputters out for want of feeding. And then--and then it is Chloe,
in the dark, stark awake, and Strephon snoring unheeding; or vice
versa, 'tis poor Strephon that has married a heartless jilt, and
awoke out of that absurd vision of conjugal felicity, which was to
last for ever, and is over like any other dream. One and other has
made his bed, and so must lie in it, until that final day when life
ends, and they sleep separate.
About this time young Esmond, who had a knack of stringing verses,
turned some of Ovid's Epistles into rhymes, and brought them to his
lady for her delectation. Those which treated of forsaken women
touched her immensely, Harry remarked; and when Oenone called after
Paris, and Medea bade Jason come back again, the lady of Castlewood
sighed, and said she thought that part of the verses was the most
pleasing. Indeed, she would have chopped up the Dean, her old
father, in order to bring her husband back again. But her
beautiful Jason was gone, as beautiful Jasons will go, and the poor
enchantress had never a spell to keep him.
My lord was only sulky as long as his wife's anxious face or
behavior seemed to upbraid him. When she had got to master these,
and to show an outwardly cheerful countenance and behavior, her
husband's good-humor returned partially, and he swore and stormed
no longer at dinner, but laughed sometimes, and yawned
unrestrainedly; absenting himself often from home, inviting more
company thither, passing the greater part of his days in the
hunting-field, or over the bottle as before; but with this
difference, that the poor wife could no longer see now, as she had
done formerly, the light of love kindled in his eyes. He was with
her, but that flame was out: and that once welcome beacon no more
What were this lady's feelings when forced to admit the truth
whereof her foreboding glass had given her only too true warning,
that within her beauty her reign had ended, and the days of her
love were over? What does a seaman do in a storm if mast and
rudder are carried away? He ships a jurymast, and steers as he
best can with an oar. What happens if your roof falls in a
tempest? After the first stun of the calamity the sufferer starts
up, gropes around to see that the children are safe, and puts them
under a shed out of the rain. If the palace burns down, you take
shelter in the barn. What man's life is not overtaken by one or
more of these tornadoes that send us out of the course, and fling
us on rocks to shelter as best we may?
When Lady Castlewood found that her great ship had gone down, she
began as best she might after she had rallied from the effects of
the loss, to put out small ventures of happiness; and hope for
little gains and returns, as a merchant on 'Change, indocilis
pauperiem pati, having lost his thousands, embarks a few guineas
upon the next ship. She laid out her all upon her children,
indulging them beyond all measure, as was inevitable with one of
her kindness of disposition; giving all her thoughts to their
welfare--learning, that she might teach them; and improving her own
many natural gifts and feminine accomplishments, that she might
impart them to her young ones. To be doing good for some one else,
is the life of most good women. They are exuberant of kindness, as
it were, and must impart it to some one. She made herself a good
scholar of French, Italian, and Latin, having been grounded in
these by her father in her youth; hiding these gifts from her
husband out of fear, perhaps, that they should offend him, for my
lord was no bookman--pish'd and psha'd at the notion of learned
ladies, and would have been angry that his wife could construe out
of a Latin book of which he could scarce understand two words.
Young Esmond was usher, or house tutor, under her or over her, as
it might happen. During my lord's many absences, these school-days
would go on uninterruptedly: the mother and daughter learning with
surprising quickness; the latter by fits and starts only, and as
suited her wayward humor. As for the little lord, it must be owned
that he took after his father in the matter of learning--liked
marbles and play, and the great horse and the little one which his
father brought him, and on which he took him out a-hunting, a great
deal better than Corderius and Lily; marshalled the village boys,
and had a little court of them, already flogging them, and
domineering over them with a fine imperious spirit, that made his
father laugh when he beheld it, and his mother fondly warn him.
The cook had a son, the woodman had two, the big lad at the
porter's lodge took his cuffs and his orders. Doctor Tusher said
he was a young nobleman of gallant spirit; and Harry Esmond, who
was his tutor, and eight years his little lordship's senior, had
hard work sometimes to keep his own temper, and hold his authority
over his rebellious little chief and kinsman.
In a couple of years after that calamity had befallen which had
robbed Lady Castlewood of a little--a very little--of her beauty,
and her careless husband's heart (if the truth must be told, my
lady had found not only that her reign was over, but that her
successor was appointed, a Princess of a noble house in Drury Lane
somewhere, who was installed and visited by my lord at the town
eight miles off--pudet haec opprobria dicere nobis)--a great change
had taken place in her mind, which, by struggles only known to
herself, at least never mentioned to any one, and unsuspected by
the person who caused the pain she endured--had been schooled into
such a condition as she could not very likely have imagined
possible a score of months since, before her misfortunes had begun.
She had oldened in that time as people do who suffer silently great
mental pain; and learned much that she had never suspected before.
She was taught by that bitter teacher Misfortune. A child the
mother of other children, but two years back her lord was a god to
her; his words her law; his smile her sunshine; his lazy
commonplaces listened to eagerly, as if they were words of wisdom--
all his wishes and freaks obeyed with a servile devotion. She had
been my lord's chief slave and blind worshipper. Some women bear
farther than this, and submit not only to neglect but to
unfaithfulness too--but here this lady's allegiance had failed her.
Her spirit rebelled, and disowned any more obedience. First she
had to bear in secret the passion of losing the adored object; then
to get further initiation, and to find this worshipped being was
but a clumsy idol: then to admit the silent truth, that it was she
was superior, and not the monarch her master: that she had thoughts
which his brains could never master, and was the better of the two;
quite separate from my lord although tied to him, and bound, as
almost all people (save a very happy few), to work all her life
alone. My lord sat in his chair, laughing his laugh, cracking his
joke, his face flushing with wine--my lady in her place over
against him--he never suspecting that his superior was there, in
the calm resigned lady, cold of manner, with downcast eyes. When
he was merry in his cups, he would make jokes about her coldness,
and, "D--- it, now my lady is gone, we will have t'other bottle,"
he would say. He was frank enough in telling his thoughts, such as
they were. There was little mystery about my lord's words or
actions. His Fair Rosamond did not live in a Labyrinth, like the
lady of Mr. Addison's opera, but paraded with painted cheeks and a
tipsy retinue in the country town. Had she a mind to be revenged,
Lady Castlewood could have found the way to her rival's house
easily enough; and, if she had come with bowl and dagger, would
have been routed off the ground by the enemy with a volley of
Billingsgate, which the fair person always kept by her.
Meanwhile, it has been said, that for Harry Esmond his benefactress's
sweet face had lost none of its charms. It had always the kindest
of looks and smiles for him--smiles, not so gay and artless perhaps
as those which Lady Castlewood had formerly worn, when, a child
herself, playing with her children, her husband's pleasure and
authority were all she thought of; but out of her griefs and cares,
as will happen I think when these trials fall upon a kindly heart,
and are not too unbearable, grew up a number of thoughts and
excellences which had never come into existence, had not her sorrow
and misfortunes engendered them. Sure, occasion is the father of
most that is good in us. As you have seen the awkward fingers and
clumsy tools of a prisoner cut and fashion the most delicate little
pieces of carved work; or achieve the most prodigious underground
labors, and cut through walls of masonry, and saw iron bars and
fetters; 'tis misfortune that awakens ingenuity, or fortitude, or
endurance, in hearts where these qualities had never come to life
but for the circumstance which gave them a being.
"'Twas after Jason left her, no doubt," Lady Castlewood once said
with one of her smiles to young Esmond (who was reading to her a
version of certain lines out of Euripides), "that Medea became a
learned woman and a great enchantress."
"And she could conjure the stars out of heaven," the young tutor
added, "but she could not bring Jason back again."
"What do you mean?" asked my lady, very angry.
"Indeed I mean nothing," said the other, "save what I've read in
books. What should I know about such matters? I have seen no
woman save you and little Beatrix, and the parson's wife and my
late mistress, and your ladyship's woman here."
"The men who wrote your books," says my lady, "your Horaces, and
Ovids, and Virgils, as far as I know of them, all thought ill of
us, as all the heroes they wrote about used us basely. We were
bred to be slaves always; and even of our own times, as you are
still the only lawgivers, I think our sermons seem to say that the
best woman is she who bears her master's chains most gracefully.
'Tis a pity there are no nunneries permitted by our church: Beatrix
and I would fly to one, and end our days in peace there away from
"And is there no slavery in a convent?" says Esmond.
"At least if women are slaves there, no one sees them," answered
the lady. "They don't work in street gangs with the public to jeer
them: and if they suffer, suffer in private. Here comes my lord
home from hunting. Take away the books. My lord does not love to
see them. Lessons are over for to-day, Mr. Tutor." And with a
curtsy and a smile she would end this sort of colloquy.
Indeed "Mr. Tutor," as my lady called Esmond, had now business
enough on his hands in Castlewood house. He had three pupils, his
lady and her two children, at whose lessons she would always be
present; besides writing my lord's letters, and arranging his
accompts for him--when these could be got from Esmond's indolent
Of the pupils the two young people were but lazy scholars, and as
my lady would admit no discipline such as was then in use, my
lord's son only learned what he liked, which was but little, and