Part 5 out of 10
kinsman, dear young Francis, was the honorable and undisputed owner
of the Castlewood estate and title. The mere word of a Jesuit
could not overset Frank's right of occupancy, and so Esmond's mind
felt actually at ease to think the papers were missing, and in
their absence his dear mistress and her son the lawful Lady and
Lord of Castlewood.
Very soon after his liberation, Mr. Esmond made it his business to
ride to that village of Ealing where he had passed his earliest
years in this country, and to see if his old guardians were still
alive and inhabitants of that place. But the only relique which he
found of old M. Pastoureau was a stone in the churchyard, which
told that Athanasius Pastoureau, a native of Flanders, lay there
buried, aged 87 years. The old man's cottage, which Esmond
perfectly recollected, and the garden (where in his childhood he
had passed many hours of play and reverie, and had many a beating
from his termagant of a foster-mother), were now in the occupation
of quite a different family; and it was with difficulty that he
could learn in the village what had come of Pastoureau's widow and
children. The clerk of the parish recollected her--the old man was
scarce altered in the fourteen years that had passed since last
Esmond set eyes on him. It appeared she had pretty soon consoled
herself after the death of her old husband, whom she ruled over, by
taking a new one younger than herself, who spent her money and ill-
treated her and her children. The girl died; one of the boys
'listed; the other had gone apprentice. Old Mr. Rogers, the clerk,
said he had heard that Mrs. Pastoureau was dead too. She and her
husband had left Ealing this seven year; and so Mr. Esmond's hopes
of gaining any information regarding his parentage from this family
were brought to an end. He gave the old clerk a crown-piece for
his news, smiling to think of the time when he and his little
playfellows had slunk out of the churchyard or hidden behind the
gravestones, at the approach of this awful authority.
Who was his mother? What had her name been? When did she die?
Esmond longed to find some one who could answer these questions to
him, and thought even of putting them to his aunt the Viscountess,
who had innocently taken the name which belonged of right to
Henry's mother. But she knew nothing, or chose to know nothing, on
this subject, nor, indeed, could Mr. Esmond press her much to speak
on it. Father Holt was the only man who could enlighten him, and
Esmond felt he must wait until some fresh chance or new intrigue
might put him face to face with his old friend, or bring that
restless indefatigable spirit back to England again.
The appointment to his ensigncy, and the preparations necessary for
the campaign, presently gave the young gentleman other matters to
think of. His new patroness treated him very kindly and liberally;
she promised to make interest and pay money, too, to get him a
company speedily; she bade him procure a handsome outfit, both of
clothes and of arms, and was pleased to admire him when he made his
first appearance in his laced scarlet coat, and to permit him to
salute her on the occasion of this interesting investiture. "Red,"
says she, tossing up her old head, "hath always been the color worn
by the Esmonds." And so her ladyship wore it on her own cheeks
very faithfully to the last. She would have him be dressed, she
said, as became his father's son, and paid cheerfully for his five-
pound beaver, his black buckled periwig, and his fine holland
shirts, and his swords, and his pistols, mounted with silver.
Since the day he was born, poor Harry had never looked such a fine
gentleman: his liberal step-mother filled his purse with guineas,
too, some of which Captain Steele and a few choice spirits helped
Harry to spend in an entertainment which Dick ordered (and, indeed,
would have paid for, but that he had no money when the reckoning
was called for; nor would the landlord give him any more credit) at
the "Garter," over against the gate of the Palace, in Pall Mall.
The old Viscountess, indeed, if she had done Esmond any wrong
formerly, seemed inclined to repair it by the present kindness of
her behavior: she embraced him copiously at parting, wept
plentifully, bade him write by every packet, and gave him an
inestimable relic, which she besought him to wear round his neck--a
medal, blessed by I know not what pope, and worn by his late sacred
Majesty King James. So Esmond arrived at his regiment with a
better equipage than most young officers could afford. He was
older than most of his seniors, and had a further advantage which
belonged but to very few of the army gentlemen in his day--many of
whom could do little more than write their names--that he had read
much, both at home and at the University, was master of two or
three languages, and had that further education which neither books
nor years will give, but which some men get from the silent
teaching of adversity. She is a great schoolmistress, as many a
poor fellow knows, that hath held his hand out to her ferule, and
whimpered over his lesson before her awful chair.
I GO ON THE VIGO BAY EXPEDITION, TASTE SALT-WATER AND SMELL POWDER.
The first expedition in which Mr. Esmond had the honor to be
engaged, rather resembled one of the invasions projected by the
redoubted Captain Avory or Captain Kidd, than a war between crowned
heads, carried on by generals of rank and honor. On the 1st day of
July, 1702, a great fleet, of a hundred and fifty sail, set sail
from Spithead, under the command of Admiral Shovell, having on
board 12,000 troops, with his Grace the Duke of Ormond as the
Capt.-General of the expedition. One of these 12,000 heroes having
never been to sea before, or, at least, only once in his infancy,
when he made the voyage to England from that unknown country where
he was born--one of those 12,000--the junior ensign of Colonel
Quin's regiment of Fusileers--was in a quite unheroic state of
corporal prostration a few hours after sailing; and an enemy, had
he boarded the ship, would have had easy work of him. From
Portsmouth we put into Plymouth, and took in fresh reinforcements.
We were off Finisterre on the 31st of July, so Esmond's table-book
informs him: and on the 8th of August made the rock of Lisbon. By
this time the Ensign was grown as bold as an admiral, and a week
afterwards had the fortune to be under fire for the first time--and
under water, too,--his boat being swamped in the surf in Toros Bay,
where the troops landed. The ducking of his new coat was all the
harm the young soldier got in this expedition, for, indeed, the
Spaniards made no stand before our troops, and were not in strength
to do so.
But the campaign, if not very glorious, was very pleasant. New
sights of nature, by sea and land--a life of action, beginning now
for the first time--occupied and excited the young man. The many
accidents, and the routine of shipboard--the military duty--the new
acquaintances, both of his comrades in arms, and of the officers of
the fleet--served to cheer and occupy his mind, and waken it out of
that selfish depression into which his late unhappy fortunes had
plunged him. He felt as if the ocean separated him from his past
care, and welcomed the new era of life which was dawning for him.
Wounds heal rapidly in a heart of two-and-twenty; hopes revive
daily; and courage rallies in spite of a man. Perhaps, as Esmond
thought of his late despondency and melancholy, and how
irremediable it had seemed to him, as he lay in his prison a few
months back, he was almost mortified in his secret mind at finding
himself so cheerful.
To see with one's own eyes men and countries, is better than
reading all the books of travel in the world: and it was with
extreme delight and exultation that the young man found himself
actually on his grand tour, and in the view of people and cities
which he had read about as a boy. He beheld war for the first
time--the pride, pomp, and circumstance of it, at least, if not
much of the danger. He saw actually, and with his own eyes, those
Spanish cavaliers and ladies whom he had beheld in imagination in
that immortal story of Cervantes, which had been the delight of his
youthful leisure. 'Tis forty years since Mr. Esmond witnessed
those scenes, but they remain as fresh in his memory as on the day
when first he saw them as a young man. A cloud, as of grief, that
had lowered over him, and had wrapped the last years of his life in
gloom, seemed to clear away from Esmond during this fortunate
voyage and campaign. His energies seemed to awaken and to expand
under a cheerful sense of freedom. Was his heart secretly glad to
have escaped from that fond but ignoble bondage at home? Was it
that the inferiority to which the idea of his base birth had
compelled him, vanished with the knowledge of that secret, which
though, perforce, kept to himself, was yet enough to cheer and
console him? At any rate, young Esmond of the army was quite a
different being to the sad little dependant of the kind Castlewood
household, and the melancholy student of Trinity Walks;
discontented with his fate, and with the vocation into which that
drove him, and thinking, with a secret indignation, that the
cassock and bands, and the very sacred office with which he had
once proposed to invest himself, were, in fact, but marks of a
servitude which was to continue all his life long. For, disguise
it as he might to himself, he had all along felt that to be
Castlewood's chaplain was to be Castlewood's inferior still, and
that his life was but to be a long, hopeless servitude. So,
indeed, he was far from grudging his old friend Tom Tusher's good
fortune (as Tom, no doubt, thought it). Had it been a mitre and
Lambeth which his friends offered him, and not a small living and a
country parsonage, he would have felt as much a slave in one case
as in the other, and was quite happy and thankful to be free.
The bravest man I ever knew in the army, and who had been present
in most of King William's actions, as well as in the campaigns of
the great Duke of Marlborough, could never be got to tell us of any
achievement of his, except that once Prince Eugene ordered him up a
tree to reconnoitre the enemy, which feat he could not achieve on
account of the horseman's boots he wore; and on another day that he
was very nearly taken prisoner because of these jack-boots, which
prevented him from running away. The present narrator shall
imitate this laudable reserve, and doth not intend to dwell upon
his military exploits, which were in truth not very different from
those of a thousand other gentlemen. This first campaign of Mr.
Esmond's lasted but a few days; and as a score of books have been
written concerning it, it may be dismissed very briefly here.
When our fleet came within view of Cadiz, our commander sent a boat
with a white flag and a couple of officers to the Governor of
Cadiz, Don Scipio de Brancaccio, with a letter from his Grace, in
which he hoped that as Don Scipio had formerly served with the
Austrians against the French, 'twas to be hoped that his Excellency
would now declare himself against the French King, and for the
Austrian in the war between King Philip and King Charles. But his
Excellency, Don Scipio, prepared a reply, in which he announced
that, having served his former king with honor and fidelity, he
hoped to exhibit the same loyalty and devotion towards his present
sovereign, King Philip V.; and by the time this letter was ready,
the two officers had been taken to see the town, and the alameda,
and the theatre, where bull-fights are fought, and the convents,
where the admirable works of Don Bartholomew Murillo inspired one
of them with a great wonder and delight--such as he had never felt
before--concerning this divine art of painting; and these sights
over, and a handsome refection and chocolate being served to the
English gentlemen, they were accompanied back to their shallop with
every courtesy, and were the only two officers of the English army
that saw at that time that famous city.
The general tried the power of another proclamation on the
Spaniards, in which he announced that we only came in the interest
of Spain and King Charles, and for ourselves wanted to make no
conquest nor settlement in Spain at all. But all this eloquence
was lost upon the Spaniards, it would seem: the Captain-General of
Andalusia would no more listen to us than the Governor of Cadiz;
and in reply to his Grace's proclamation, the Marquis of
Villadarias fired off another, which those who knew the Spanish
thought rather the best of the two; and of this number was Harry
Esmond, whose kind Jesuit in old days had instructed him, and now
had the honor of translating for his Grace these harmless documents
of war. There was a hard touch for his Grace, and, indeed, for
other generals in her Majesty's service, in the concluding sentence
of the Don: "That he and his council had the generous example of
their ancestors to follow, who had never yet sought their elevation
in the blood or in the flight of their kings. 'Mori pro patria'
was his device, which the Duke might communicate to the Princess
who governed England."
Whether the troops were angry at this repartee or no, 'tis certain
something put them in a fury; for, not being able to get possession
of Cadiz, our people seized upon Port Saint Mary's and sacked it,
burning down the merchants' storehouses, getting drunk with the
famous wines there, pillaging and robbing quiet houses and
convents, murdering and doing worse. And the only blood which Mr.
Esmond drew in this shameful campaign, was the knocking down an
English sentinel with a half-pike, who was offering insult to a
poor trembling nun. Is she going to turn out a beauty? or a
princess? or perhaps Esmond's mother that he had lost and never
seen? Alas no, it was but a poor wheezy old dropsical woman, with
a wart upon her nose. But having been early taught a part of the
Roman religion, he never had the horror of it that some Protestants
have shown, and seem to think to be a part of ours.
After the pillage and plunder of St. Mary's and an assault upon a
fort or two, the troops all took shipping, and finished their
expedition, at any rate, more brilliantly than it had begun.
Hearing that the French fleet with a great treasure was in Vigo
Bay, our Admirals, Rooke and Hopson, pursued the enemy thither; the
troops landed and carried the forts that protected the bay, Hopson
passing the boom first on board his ship the "Torbay," and the rest
of the ships, English and Dutch, following him. Twenty ships were
burned or taken in the Port of Redondilla, and a vast deal more
plunder than was ever accounted for; but poor men before that
expedition were rich afterwards, and so often was it found and
remarked that the Vigo officers came home with pockets full of
money, that the notorious Jack Shafto, who made such a figure at
the coffeehouses and gaming-tables in London, and gave out that he
had been a soldier at Vigo, owned, when he was about to be hanged,
that Bagshot Heath had been HIS Vigo, and that he only spoke of La
Redondilla to turn away people's eyes from the real place where the
booty lay. Indeed, Hounslow or Vigo--which matters much? The
latter was a bad business, though Mr. Addison did sing its praises
in Latin. That honest gentleman's muse had an eye to the main
chance; and I doubt whether she saw much inspiration in the losing
But though Esmond, for his part, got no share of this fabulous
booty, one great prize which he had out of the campaign was, that
excitement of action and change of scene, which shook off a great
deal of his previous melancholy. He learnt at any rate to bear his
fate cheerfully. He brought back a browned face, a heart resolute
enough, and a little pleasant store of knowledge and observation,
from that expedition, which was over with the autumn, when the
troops were back in England again; and Esmond giving up his post of
secretary to General Lumley, whose command was over, and parting
with that officer with many kind expressions of good will on the
General's side, had leave to go to London, to see if he could push
his fortunes any way further, and found himself once more in his
dowager aunt's comfortable quarters at Chelsey, and in greater
favor than ever with the old lady. He propitiated her with a
present of a comb, a fan, and a black mantle, such as the ladies of
Cadiz wear, and which my Lady Viscountess pronounced became her
style of beauty mightily. And she was greatily edified at hearing
of that story of his rescue of the nun, and felt very little doubt
but that her King James's relic, which he had always dutifully worn
in his desk, had kept him out of danger, and averted the shot of
the enemy. My lady made feasts for him, introduced him to more
company, and pushed his fortunes with such enthusiasm and success,
that she got a promise of a company for him through the Lady
Marlborough's interest, who was graciously pleased to accept of a
diamond worth a couple of hundred guineas, which Mr. Esmond was
enabled to present to her ladyship through his aunt's bounty, and
who promised that she would take charge of Esmond's fortune. He
had the honor to make his appearance at the Queen's drawing-room
occasionally, and to frequent my Lord Marlborough's levees. That
great man received the young one with very especial favor, so
Esmond's comrades said, and deigned to say that he had received the
best reports of Mr. Esmond, both for courage and ability, whereon
you may be sure the young gentleman made a profound bow, and
expressed himself eager to serve under the most distinguished
captain in the world.
Whilst his business was going on thus prosperously, Esmond had his
share of pleasure too, and made his appearance along with other
young gentlemen at the coffee-houses, the theatres, and the Mall.
He longed to hear of his dear mistress and her family: many a time,
in the midst of the gayeties and pleasures of the town, his heart
fondly reverted to them; and often as the young fellows of his
society were making merry at the tavern, and calling toasts (as the
fashion of that day was) over their wine, Esmond thought of
persons--of two fair women, whom he had been used to adore almost,
and emptied his glass with a sigh.
By this time the elder Viscountess had grown tired again of the
younger, and whenever she spoke of my lord's widow, 'twas in terms
by no means complimentary towards that poor lady: the younger woman
not needing her protection any longer, the elder abused her. Most
of the family quarrels that I have seen in life (saving always
those arising from money disputes, when a division of twopence
halfpenny will often drive the dearest relatives into war and
estrangement,) spring out of jealousy and envy. Jack and Tom, born
of the same family and to the same fortune, live very cordially
together, not until Jack is ruined when Tom deserts him, but until
Tom makes a sudden rise in prosperity, which Jack can't forgive.
Ten times to one 'tis the unprosperous man that is angry, not the
other who is in fault. 'Tis Mrs. Jack, who can only afford a
chair, that sickens at Mrs. Tom's new coach-and-sick, cries out
against her sister's airs, and sets her husband against his
brother. 'Tis Jack who sees his brother shaking hands with a lord
(with whom Jack would like to exchange snuff-boxes himself), that
goes home and tells his wife how poor Tom is spoiled, he fears, and
no better than a sneak, parasite, and beggar on horse back. I
remember how furious the coffee-house wits were with Dick Steele
when he set up his coach and fine house in Bloomsbury: they began
to forgive him when the bailiffs were after him, and abused Mr.
Addison for selling Dick's country-house. And yet Dick in the
sponging-house, or Dick in the Park, with his four mares and plated
harness, was exactly the same gentle, kindly, improvident, jovial
Dick Steele: and yet Mr. Addison was perfectly right in getting the
money which was his, and not giving up the amount of his just
claim, to be spent by Dick upon champagne and fiddlers, laced
clothes, fine furniture, and parasites, Jew and Christian, male and
female, who clung to him. As, according to the famous maxim of
Monsieur de Rochefoucault, "in our friends' misfortunes there's
something secretly pleasant to us;" so, on the other hand, their
good fortune is disagreeable. If 'tis hard for a man to bear his
own good luck, 'tis harder still for his friends to bear it for him
and but few of them ordinarily can stand that trial: whereas one of
the "precious uses" of adversity is, that it is a great reconciler;
that it brings back averted kindness, disarms animosity, and causes
yesterday's enemy to fling his hatred aside, and hold out a hand to
the fallen friend of old days. There's pity and love, as well as
envy, in the same heart and towards the same person. The rivalry
stops when the competitor tumbles; and, as I view it, we should
look at these agreeable and disagreeable qualities of our humanity
humbly alike. They are consequent and natural, and our kindness
and meanness both manly.
So you may either read the sentence, that the elder of Esmond's two
kinswomen pardoned the younger her beauty, when that had lost
somewhat of its freshness, perhaps; and forgot most her grievances
against the other, when the subject of them was no longer
prosperous and enviable; or we may say more benevolently (but the
sum comes to the same figures, worked either way,) that Isabella
repented of her unkindness towards Rachel, when Rachel was unhappy;
and, bestirring herself in behalf of the poor widow and her
children, gave them shelter and friendship. The ladies were quite
good friends as long as the weaker one needed a protector. Before
Esmond went away on his first campaign, his mistress was still on
terms of friendship (though a poor little chit, a woman that had
evidently no spirit in her, &c.) with the elder Lady Castlewood;
and Mistress Beatrix was allowed to be a beauty.
But between the first year of Queen Anne's reign, and the second,
sad changes for the worse had taken place in the two younger
ladies, at least in the elder's description of them. Rachel,
Viscountess Castlewood, had no more face than a dumpling, and Mrs.
Beatrix was grown quite coarse, and was losing all her beauty.
Little Lord Blandford--(she never would call him Lord Blandford;
his father was Lord Churchill--the King, whom he betrayed, had made
him Lord Churchill, and he was Lord Churchill still)--might be
making eyes at her; but his mother, that vixen of a Sarah Jennings,
would never hear of such a folly. Lady Marlborough had got her to
be a maid of honor at Court to the Princess, but she would repent
of it. The widow Francis (she was but Mrs. Francis Esmond) was a
scheming, artful, heartless hussy. She was spoiling her brat of a
boy, and she would end by marrying her chaplain.
"What, Tusher!" cried Mr. Esmond, feeling a strange pang of rage
"Yes--Tusher, my maid's son; and who has got all the qualities of
his father the lackey in black, and his accomplished mamma the
waiting-woman," cries my lady. "What do you suppose that a
sentimental widow, who will live down in that dingy dungeon of a
Castlewood, where she spoils her boy, kills the poor with her
drugs, has prayers twice a day and sees nobody but the chaplain--
what do you suppose she can do, mon Cousin, but let the horrid
parson, with his great square toes and hideous little green eyes,
make love to her? Cela c'est vu, mon Cousin. When I was a girl at
Castlewood, all the chaplains fell in love with me--they've nothing
else to do."
My lady went on with more talk of this kind, though, in truth,
Esmond had no idea of what she said further, so entirely did her
first words occupy his thought. Were they true? Not all, nor
half, nor a tenth part of what the garrulous old woman said, was
true. Could this be so? No ear had Esmond for anything else,
though his patroness chatted on for an hour.
Some young gentlemen of the town, with whom Esmond had made
acquaintance, had promised to present him to that most charming of
actresses, and lively and agreeable of women, Mrs. Bracegirdle,
about whom Harry's old adversary Mohun had drawn swords, a few
years before my poor lord and he fell out. The famous Mr. Congreve
had stamped with his high approval, to the which there was no
gainsaying, this delightful person: and she was acting in Dick
Steele's comedies, and finally, and for twenty-four hours after
beholding her, Mr. Esmond felt himself, or thought himself, to be
as violently enamored of this lovely brunette, as were a thousand
other young fellows about the city. To have once seen her was to
long to behold her again; and to be offered the delightful
privilege of her acquaintance, was a pleasure the very idea of
which set the young lieutenant's heart on fire. A man cannot live
with comrades under the tents without finding out that he too is
five-and-twenty. A young fellow cannot be cast down by grief and
misfortune ever so severe but some night he begins to sleep sound,
and some day when dinner-time comes to feel hungry for a beefsteak.
Time, youth and good health, new scenes and the excitement of
action and a campaign, had pretty well brought Esmond's mourning to
an end; and his comrades said that Don Dismal, as they called him,
was Don Dismal no more. So when a party was made to dine at the
"Rose," and go to the playhouse afterward, Esmond was as pleased as
another to take his share of the bottle and the play.
How was it that the old aunt's news, or it might be scandal, about
Tom Tusher, caused such a strange and sudden excitement in Tom's
old playfellow? Hadn't he sworn a thousand times in his own mind
that the Lady of Castlewood, who had treated him with such kindness
once, and then had left him so cruelly, was, and was to remain
henceforth, indifferent to him for ever? Had his pride and his
sense of justice not long since helped him to cure the pain of that
desertion--was it even a pain to him now? Why, but last night as
he walked across the fields and meadows to Chelsey from Pall Mall,
had he not composed two or three stanzas of a song, celebrating
Bracegirdle's brown eyes, and declaring them a thousand times more
beautiful than the brightest blue ones that ever languished under
the lashes of an insipid fair beauty! But Tom Tusher! Tom Tusher,
the waiting-woman's son, raising up his little eyes to his
mistress! Tom Tusher presuming to think of Castlewood's widow!
Rage and contempt filled Mr. Harry's heart at the very notion; the
honor of the family, of which he was the chief, made it his duty to
prevent so monstrous an alliance, and to chastise the upstart who
could dare to think of such an insult to their house. 'Tis true
Mr. Esmond often boasted of republican principles, and could
remember many fine speeches he had made at college and elsewhere,
with WORTH and not BIRTH for a text: but Tom Tusher to take the
place of the noble Castlewood--faugh! 'twas as monstrous as King
Hamlet's widow taking off her weeds for Claudius. Esmond laughed
at all widows, all wives, all women; and were the banns about to be
published, as no doubt they were, that very next Sunday at Walcote
Church, Esmond swore that he would be present to shout No! in the
face of the congregation, and to take a private revenge upon the
ears of the bridegroom.
Instead of going to dinner then at the "Rose" that night, Mr.
Esmond bade his servant pack a portmanteau and get horses, and was
at Farnham, half-way on the road to Walcote, thirty miles off,
before his comrades had got to their supper after the play. He
bade his man give no hint to my Lady Dowager's household of the
expedition on which he was going; and as Chelsey was distant from
London, the roads bad, and infested by footpads, and Esmond often
in the habit, when engaged in a party of pleasure, of lying at a
friend's lodging in town, there was no need that his old aunt
should be disturbed at his absence--indeed, nothing more delighted
the old lady than to fancy that mon cousin, the incorrigible young
sinner, was abroad boxing the watch, or scouring St. Giles's. When
she was not at her books of devotion, she thought Etheridge and
Sedley very good reading. She had a hundred pretty stories about
Rochester, Harry Jermyn, and Hamilton; and if Esmond would but have
run away with the wife even of a citizen, 'tis my belief she would
have pawned her diamonds (the best of them went to our Lady of
Chaillot) to pay his damages.
My lord's little house of Walcote--which he inhabited before he
took his title and occupied the house of Castlewood--lies about a
mile from Winchester, and his widow had returned to Walcote after
my lord's death as a place always dear to her, and where her
earliest and happiest days had been spent, cheerfuller than
Castlewood, which was too large for her straitened means, and
giving her, too, the protection of the ex-dean, her father. The
young Viscount had a year's schooling at the famous college there,
with Mr. Tusher as his governor. So much news of them Mr. Esmond
had had during the past year from the old Viscountess, his own
father's widow; from the young one there had never been a word.
Twice or thrice in his benefactor's lifetime, Esmond had been to
Walcote; and now, taking but a couple of hours' rest only at the
inn on the road, he was up again long before daybreak, and made
such good speed that he was at Walcote by two o'clock of the day.
He rid to the end of the village, where he alighted and sent a man
thence to Mr. Tusher, with a message that a gentleman from London
would speak with him on urgent business. The messenger came back
to say the Doctor was in town, most likely at prayers in the
Cathedral. My Lady Viscountess was there, too; she always went to
Cathedral prayers every day.
The horses belonged to the post-house at Winchester. Esmond
mounted again and rode on to the "George;" whence he walked,
leaving his grumbling domestic at last happy with a dinner,
straight to the Cathedral. The organ was playing: the winter's day
was already growing gray: as he passed under the street-arch into
the Cathedral yard, and made his way into the ancient solemn
THE 29TH DECEMBER.
There was scarce a score of persons in the Cathedral beside the
Dean and some of his clergy, and the choristers, young and old,
that performed the beautiful evening prayer. But Mr. Tusher was
one of the officiants, and read from the eagle in an authoritative
voice, and a great black periwig; and in the stalls, still in her
black widow's hood, sat Esmond's dear mistress, her son by her
side, very much grown, and indeed a noble-looking youth, with his
mother's eyes, and his father's curling brown hair, that fell over
his point de Venise--a pretty picture such as Van Dyck might have
painted. Mons. Rigaud's portrait of my Lord Viscount, done at
Paris afterwards, gives but a French version of his manly, frank,
English face. When he looked up there were two sapphire beams out
of his eyes such as no painter's palette has the color to match, I
think. On this day there was not much chance of seeing that
particular beauty of my young lord's countenance; for the truth is,
he kept his eyes shut for the most part, and, the anthem being
rather long, was asleep.
But the music ceasing, my lord woke up, looking about him, and his
eyes lighting on Mr. Esmond, who was sitting opposite him, gazing
with no small tenderness and melancholy upon two persons who had so
much of his heart for so many years, Lord Castlewood, with a start,
pulled at his mother's sleeve (her face had scarce been lifted from
her book), and said, "Look, mother!" so loud, that Esmond could
hear on the other side of the church, and the old Dean on his
throned stall. Lady Castlewood looked for an instant as her son
bade her, and held up a warning finger to Frank; Esmond felt his
whole face flush, and his heart throbbing, as that dear lady beheld
him once more. The rest of the prayers were speedily over; Mr.
Esmond did not hear them; nor did his mistress, very likely, whose
hood went more closely over her face, and who never lifted her head
again until the service was over, the blessing given, and Mr. Dean,
and his procession of ecclesiastics, out of the inner chapel.
Young Castlewood came clambering over the stalls before the clergy
were fairly gone, and running up to Esmond, eagerly embraced him.
"My dear, dearest old Harry!" he said, "are you come back? Have
you been to the wars? You'll take me with you when you go again?
Why didn't you write to us? Come to mother."
Mr. Esmond could hardly say more than a "God bless you, my boy,"
for his heart was very full and grateful at all this tenderness on
the lad's part; and he was as much moved at seeing Frank as he was
fearful about that other interview which was now to take place: for
he knew not if the widow would reject him as she had done so
cruelly a year ago.
"It was kind of you to come back to us, Henry," Lady Esmond said.
"I thought you might come."
"We read of the fleet coming to Portsmouth. Why did you not come
from Portsmouth?" Frank asked, or my Lord Viscount, as he now must
Esmond had thought of that too. He would have given one of his
eyes so that he might see his dear friends again once more; but
believing that his mistress had forbidden him her house, he had
obeyed her, and remained at a distance.
"You had but to ask, and you know I would be here," he said.
She gave him her hand, her little fair hand; there was only her
marriage ring on it. The quarrel was all over. The year of grief
and estrangement was passed. They never had been separated. His
mistress had never been out of his mind all that time. No, not
once. No, not in the prison; nor in the camp; nor on shore before
the enemy; nor at sea under the stars of solemn midnight; nor as he
watched the glorious rising of the dawn: not even at the table,
where he sat carousing with friends, or at the theatre yonder,
where he tried to fancy that other eyes were brighter than hers.
Brighter eyes there might be, and faces more beautiful, but none so
dear--no voice so sweet as that of his beloved mistress, who had
been sister, mother, goddess to him during his youth--goddess now
no more, for he knew of her weaknesses; and by thought, by
suffering, and that experience it brings, was older now than she;
but more fondly cherished as woman perhaps than ever she had been
adored as divinity. What is it? Where lies it? the secret which
makes one little hand the dearest of all? Whoever can unriddle
that mystery? Here she was, her son by his side, his dear boy.
Here she was, weeping and happy. She took his hand in both hers;
he felt her tears. It was a rapture of reconciliation.
"Here comes Squaretoes," says Frank. "Here's Tusher."
Tusher, indeed, now appeared, creaking on his great heels. Mr. Tom
had divested himself of his alb or surplice, and came forward
habited in his cassock and great black periwig. How had Esmond
ever been for a moment jealous of this fellow?
"Give us thy hand, Tom Tusher," he said. The chaplain made him a
very low and stately bow. "I am charmed to see Captain Esmond,"
says he. "My lord and I have read the Reddas incolumem precor, and
applied it, I am sure, to you. You come back with Gaditanian
laurels; when I heard you were bound thither, I wished, I am sure,
I was another Septimius. My Lord Viscount, your lordship remembers
Septimi, Gades aditure mecum?"
"There's an angle of earth that I love better than Gades, Tusher,"
says Mr. Esmond. "'Tis that one where your reverence hath a
parsonage, and where our youth was brought up."
"A house that has so many sacred recollections to me," says Mr.
Tusher (and Harry remembered how Tom's father used to flog him
there)--"a house near to that of my respected patron, my most
honored patroness, must ever be a dear abode to me. But, madam,
the verger waits to close the gates on your ladyship."
"And Harry's coming home to supper. Huzzay! huzzay!" cries my
lord. "Mother, I shall run home and bid Beatrix put her ribbons
on. Beatrix is a maid of honor, Harry. Such a fine set-up minx!"
"Your heart was never in the Church, Harry," the widow said, in her
sweet low tone, as they walked away together. (Now, it seemed they
never had been parted, and again, as if they had been ages
asunder.) "I always thought you had no vocation that way; and that
'twas a pity to shut you out from the world. You would but have
pined and chafed at Castlewood: and 'tis better you should make a
name for yourself. I often said so to my dear lord. How he loved
you! 'Twas my lord that made you stay with us."
"I asked no better than to stay near you always," said Mr. Esmond.
"But to go was best, Harry. When the world cannot give peace, you
will know where to find it; but one of your strong imagination and
eager desires must try the world first before he tires of it.
'Twas not to be thought of, or if it once was, it was only by my
selfishness, that you should remain as chaplain to a country
gentleman and tutor to a little boy. You are of the blood of the
Esmonds, kinsman; and that was always wild in youth. Look at
Francis. He is but fifteen, and I scarce can keep him in my nest.
His talk is all of war and pleasure, and he longs to serve in the
next campaign. Perhaps he and the young Lord Churchill shall go
the next. Lord Marlborough has been good to us. You know how kind
they were in my misfortune. And so was your--your father's widow.
No one knows how good the world is, till grief comes to try us.
'Tis through my Lady Marlborough's goodness that Beatrix hath her
place at Court; and Frank is under my Lord Chamberlain. And the
dowager lady, your father's widow, has promised to provide for you--
has she not?"
Esmond said, "Yes. As far as present favor went, Lady Castlewood
was very good to him. And should her mind change," he added gayly,
"as ladies' minds will, I am strong enough to bear my own burden,
and make my way somehow. Not by the sword very likely. Thousands
have a better genius for that than I, but there are many ways in
which a young man of good parts and education can get on in the
world; and I am pretty sure, one way or other, of promotion!"
Indeed, he had found patrons already in the army, and amongst
persons very able to serve him, too; and told his mistress of the
flattering aspect of fortune. They walked as though they had never
been parted, slowly, with the gray twilight closing round them.
"And now we are drawing near to home," she continued, "I knew you
would come, Harry, if--if it was but to forgive me for having
spoken unjustly to you after that horrid--horrid misfortune. I was
half frantic with grief then when I saw you. And I know now--they
have told me. That wretch, whose name I can never mention, even
has said it: how you tried to avert the quarrel, and would have
taken it on yourself, my poor child: but it was God's will that I
should be punished, and that my dear lord should fall."
"He gave me his blessing on his death-bed," Esmond said. "Thank
God for that legacy!"
"Amen, amen! dear Henry," said the lady, pressing his arm. "I knew
it. Mr. Atterbury, of St. Bride's, who was called to him, told me
so. And I thanked God, too, and in my prayers ever since
"You had spared me many a bitter night, had you told me sooner,"
Mr. Esmond said.
"I know it, I know it," she answered, in a tone of such sweet
humility, as made Esmond repent that he should ever have dared to
reproach her. "I know how wicked my heart has been; and I have
suffered too, my dear. I confessed to Mr. Atterbury--I must not
tell any more. He--I said I would not write to you or go to you--
and it was better even that having parted, we should part. But I
knew you would come back--I own that. That is no one's fault. And
to-day, Henry, in the anthem, when they sang it, 'When the Lord
turned the captivity of Zion, we were like them that dream,' I
thought, yes, like them that dream--them that dream. And then it
went, 'They that sow in tears shall reap in joy; and he that goeth
forth and weepeth, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing,
bringing his sheaves with him;' I looked up from the book, and saw
you. I was not surprised when I saw you. I knew you would come,
my dear, and saw the gold sunshine round your head."
She smiled an almost wild smile as she looked up at him. The moon
was up by this time, glittering keen in the frosty sky. He could
see, for the first time now clearly, her sweet careworn face.
"Do you know what day it is?" she continued. "It is the 29th of
December--it is your birthday! But last year we did not drink it--
no, no. My lord was cold, and my Harry was likely to die: and my
brain was in a fever; and we had no wine. But now--now you are
come again, bringing your sheaves with you, my dear." She burst
into a wild flood of weeping as she spoke; she laughed and sobbed
on the young man's heart, crying out wildly, "bringing your sheaves
with you--your sheaves with you!"
As he had sometimes felt, gazing up from the deck at midnight into
the boundless starlit depths overhead, in a rapture of devout
wonder at that endless brightness and beauty--in some such a way
now, the depth of this pure devotion (which was, for the first
time, revealed to him) quite smote upon him, and filled his heart
with thanksgiving. Gracious God, who was he, weak and friendless
creature, that such a love should be poured out upon him? Not in
vain--not in vain has he lived--hard and thankless should he be to
think so--that has such a treasure given him. What is ambition
compared to that, but selfish vanity? To be rich, to be famous?
What do these profit a year hence, when other names sound louder
than yours, when you lie hidden away under the ground, along with
idle titles engraven on your coffin? But only true love lives
after you--follows your memory with secret blessing--or precedes
you, and intercedes for you. Non omnis moriar--if dying, I yet
live in a tender heart or two; nor am lost and hopeless living, if
a sainted departed soul still loves and prays for me.
"If--if 'tis so, dear lady," Mr. Esmond said, "why should I ever
leave you? If God hath given me this great boon--and near or far
from me, as I know now, the heart of my dearest mistress follows
me, let me have that blessing near me, nor ever part with it till
death separate us. Come away--leave this Europe, this place which
has so many sad recollections for you. Begin a new life in a new
world. My good lord often talked of visiting that land in Virginia
which King Charles gave us--gave his ancestor. Frank will give us
that. No man there will ask if there is a blot on my name, or
inquire in the woods what my title is."
"And my children--and my duty--and my good father, Henry?" she
broke out. "He has none but me now! for soon my sister will leave
him, and the old man will be alone. He has conformed since the new
Queen's reign; and here in Winchester, where they love him, they
have found a church for him. When the children leave me, I will
stay with him. I cannot follow them into the great world, where
their way lies--it scares me. They will come and visit me; and you
will, sometimes, Henry--yes, sometimes, as now, in the Holy Advent
season, when I have seen and blessed you once more."
"I would leave all to follow you," said Mr. Esmond; "and can you
not be as generous for me, dear lady?"
"Hush, boy!" she said, and it was with a mother's sweet plaintive
tone and look that she spoke. "The world is beginning for you.
For me, I have been so weak and sinful that I must leave it, and
pray out an expiation, dear Henry. Had we houses of religion as
there were once, and many divines of our Church would have them
again, I often think I would retire to one and pass my life in
penance. But I would love you still--yes, there is no sin in such
a love as mine now; and my dear lord in heaven may see my heart;
and knows the tears that have washed my sin away--and now--now my
duty is here, by my children whilst they need me, and by my poor
old father, and--"
"And not by me?" Henry said.
"Hush!" she said again, and raised her hand up to his lip. "I have
been your nurse. You could not see me, Harry, when you were in the
small-pox, and I came and sat by you. Ah! I prayed that I might
die, but it would have been in sin, Henry. Oh, it is horrid to
look back to that time. It is over now and past, and it has been
forgiven me. When you need me again, I will come ever so far.
When your heart is wounded, then come to me, my dear. Be silent!
let me say all. You never loved me, dear Henry--no, you do not
now, and I thank heaven for it. I used to watch you, and knew by a
thousand signs that it was so. Do you remember how glad you were
to go away to college? 'Twas I sent you. I told my papa that, and
Mr. Atterbury too, when I spoke to him in London. And they both
gave me absolution--both--and they are godly men, having authority
to bind and to loose. And they forgave me, as my dear lord forgave
me before he went to heaven."
"I think the angels are not all in heaven," Mr. Esmond said. And
as a brother folds a sister to his heart; and as a mother cleaves
to her son's breast--so for a few moments Esmond's beloved mistress
came to him and blessed him.
I AM MADE WELCOME AT WALCOTE.
As they came up to the house at Walcote, the windows from within
were lighted up with friendly welcome; the supper-table was spread
in the oak-parlor; it seemed as if forgiveness and love were
awaiting the returning prodigal. Two or three familiar faces of
domestics were on the look-out at the porch--the old housekeeper
was there, and young Lockwood from Castlewood in my lord's livery
of tawny and blue. His dear mistress pressed his arm as they
passed into the hall. Her eyes beamed out on him with affection
indescribable. "Welcome," was all she said, as she looked up,
putting back her fair curls and black hood. A sweet rosy smile
blushed on her face; Harry thought he had never seen her look so
charming. Her face was lighted with a joy that was brighter than
beauty--she took a hand of her son who was in the hall waiting his
mother--she did not quit Esmond's arm.
"Welcome, Harry!" my young lord echoed after her. "Here, we are
all come to say so. Here's old Pincot, hasn't she grown handsome?"
and Pincot, who was older, and no handsomer than usual, made a
curtsy to the Captain, as she called Esmond, and told my lord to
"Have done, now."
"And here's Jack Lockwood. He'll make a famous grenadier, Jack;
and so shall I; we'll both 'list under you, Cousin. As soon as I'm
seventeen, I go to the army--every gentleman goes to the army.
Look! who comes here--ho, ho!" he burst into a laugh. "'Tis
Mistress Trix, with a new ribbon; I knew she would put one on as
soon as she heard a captain was coming to supper."
This laughing colloquy took place in the hall of Walcote House: in
the midst of which is a staircase that leads from an open gallery,
where are the doors of the sleeping chambers: and from one of
these, a wax candle in her hand, and illuminating her, came
Mistress Beatrix--the light falling indeed upon the scarlet ribbon
which she wore, and upon the most brilliant white neck in the
Esmond had left a child and found a woman, grown beyond the common
height; and arrived at such a dazzling completeness of beauty, that
his eyes might well show surprise and delight at beholding her. In
hers there was a brightness so lustrous and melting, that I have
seen a whole assembly follow her as if by an attraction
irresistible: and that night the great Duke was at the playhouse
after Ramillies, every soul turned and looked (she chanced to enter
at the opposite side of the theatre at the same moment) at her, and
not at him. She was a brown beauty: that is, her eyes, hair, and
eyebrows and eyelashes were dark: her hair curling with rich
undulations, and waving over her shoulders; but her complexion was
as dazzling white as snow in sunshine; except her cheeks, which
were a bright red, and her lips, which were of a still deeper
crimson. Her mouth and chin, they said, were too large and full,
and so they might be for a goddess in marble, but not for a woman
whose eyes were fire, whose look was love, whose voice was the
sweetest low song, whose shape was perfect symmetry, health,
decision, activity, whose foot as it planted itself on the ground
was firm but flexible, and whose motion, whether rapid or slow, was
always perfect grace--agile as a nymph, lofty as a queen,--now
melting, now imperious, now sarcastic--there was no single movement
of hers but was beautiful. As he thinks of her, he who writes
feels young again, and remembers a paragon.
So she came holding her dress with one fair rounded arm, and her
taper before her, tripping down the stair to greet Esmond.
"She hath put on her scarlet stockings and white shoes," says my
lord, still laughing. "Oh, my fine mistress! is this the way you
set your cap at the Captain?" She approached, shining smiles upon
Esmond, who could look at nothing but her eyes. She advanced
holding forward her head, as if she would have him kiss her as he
used to do when she was a child.
"Stop," she said, "I am grown too big! Welcome, cousin Harry," and
she made him an arch curtsy, sweeping down to the ground almost,
with the most gracious bend, looking up the while with the
brightest eyes and sweetest smile. Love seemed to radiate from
her. Harry eyed her with such a rapture as the first lover is
described as having by Milton.
"N'est-ce pas?" says my lady, in a low, sweet voice, still hanging
on his arm.
Esmond turned round with a start and a blush, as he met his
mistress's clear eyes. He had forgotten her, rapt in admiration of
the filia pulcrior.
"Right foot forward, toe turned out, so: now drop the curtsy, and
show the red stockings, Trix. They've silver clocks, Harry. The
Dowager sent 'em. She went to put 'em on," cries my lord.
"Hush, you stupid child!" says Miss, smothering her brother with
kisses; and then she must come and kiss her mamma, looking all the
while at Harry, over his mistress's shoulder. And if she did not
kiss him, she gave him both her hands, and then took one of his in
both hands, and said, "Oh, Harry, we're so, SO glad you're come!"
"There are woodcocks for supper," says my lord. "Huzzay! It was
such a hungry sermon."
"And it is the 29th of December; and our Harry has come home."
"Huzzay, old Pincot!" again says my lord; and my dear lady's lips
looked as if they were trembling with a prayer. She would have
Harry lead in Beatrix to the supper-room, going herself with my
young Lord Viscount; and to this party came Tom Tusher directly,
whom four at least out of the company of five wished away. Away he
went, however, as soon as the sweetmeats were put down, and then,
by the great crackling fire, his mistress or Beatrix, with her
blushing graces, filling his glass for him, Harry told the story of
his campaign, and passed the most delightful night his life had
ever known. The sun was up long ere he was, so deep, sweet, and
refreshing was his slumber. He woke as if angels had been watching
at his bed all night. I dare say one that was as pure and loving
as an angel had blessed his sleep with her prayers.
Next morning the chaplain read prayers to the little household at
Walcote, as the custom was; Esmond thought Mistress Beatrix did not
listen to Tusher's exhortation much: her eyes were wandering
everywhere during the service, at least whenever he looked up he
met them. Perhaps he also was not very attentive to his Reverence
the Chaplain. "This might have been my life," he was thinking;
"this might have been my duty from now till old age. Well, were it
not a pleasant one to be with these dear friends and part from 'em
no more? Until--until the destined lover comes and takes away
pretty Beatrix"--and the best part of Tom Tusher's exposition,
which may have been very learned and eloquent, was quite lost to
poor Harry by this vision of the destined lover, who put the
All the while of the prayers, Beatrix knelt a little way before
Harry Esmond. The red stockings were changed for a pair of gray,
and black shoes, in which her feet looked to the full as pretty.
All the roses of spring could not vie with the brightness of her
complexion; Esmond thought he had never seen anything like the
sunny lustre of her eyes. My Lady Viscountess looked fatigued, as
if with watching, and her face was pale.
Miss Beatrix remarked these signs of indisposition in her mother
and deplored them. "I am an old woman," says my lady, with a kind
smile; "I cannot hope to look as young as you do, my dear."
"She'll never look as good as you do if she lives till she's a
hundred," says my lord, taking his mother by the waist, and kissing
"Do I look very wicked, cousin?" says Beatrix, turning full round
on Esmond, with her pretty face so close under his chin, that the
soft perfumed hair touched it. She laid her finger-tips on his
sleeve as she spoke; and he put his other hand over hers.
"I'm like your looking-glass," says he, "and that can't flatter
"He means that you are always looking at him, my dear," says her
mother, archly. Beatrix ran away from Esmond at this, and flew to
her mamma, whom she kissed, stopping my lady's mouth with her
"And Harry is very good to look at," says my lady, with her fond
eyes regarding the young man.
"If 'tis good to see a happy face," says he, "you see that." My
lady said, "Amen," with a sigh; and Harry thought the memory of her
dear lord rose up and rebuked her back again into sadness; for her
face lost the smile, and resumed its look of melancholy.
"Why, Harry, how fine we look in our scarlet and silver, and our
black periwig," cries my lord. "Mother, I am tired of my own hair.
When shall I have a peruke? Where did you get your steenkirk,
"It's some of my Lady Dowager's lace," says Harry; "she gave me
this and a number of other fine things."
"My Lady Dowager isn't such a bad woman," my lord continued.
"She's not so--so red as she's painted," says Miss Beatrix.
Her brother broke into a laugh. "I'll tell her you said so; by the
Lord, Trix, I will," he cries out.
"She'll know that you hadn't the wit to say it, my lord," says Miss
"We won't quarrel the first day Harry's here, will we, mother?"
said the young lord. "We'll see if we can get on to the new year
without a fight. Have some of this Christmas pie. And here comes
the tankard; no, it's Pincot with the tea."
"Will the Captain choose a dish?" asked Mistress Beatrix.
"I say, Harry," my lord goes on, "I'll show thee my horses after
breakfast; and we'll go a bird-netting to-night, and on Monday
there's a cock-match at Winchester--do you love cock-fighting,
Harry?--between the gentlemen of Sussex and the gentlemen of
Hampshire, at ten pound the battle, and fifty pound the odd battle
to show one-and-twenty cocks."
"And what will you do, Beatrix, to amuse our kinsman?" asks my
"I'll listen to him," says Beatrix. "I am sure he has a hundred
things to tell us. And I'm jealous already of the Spanish ladies.
Was that a beautiful nun at Cadiz that you rescued from the
soldiers? Your man talked of it last night in the kitchen, and
Mrs. Betty told me this morning as she combed my hair. And he says
you must be in love, for you sat on deck all night, and scribbled
verses all day in your tablebook." Harry thought if he had wanted
a subject for verses yesterday, to-day he had found one: and not
all the Lindamiras and Ardelias of the poets were half so beautiful
as this young creature; but he did not say so, though some one did
This was his dear lady, who, after the meal was over, and the young
people were gone, began talking of her children with Mr. Esmond,
and of the characters of one and the other, and of her hopes and
fears for both of them. "'Tis not while they are at home," she
said, "and in their mother's nest, I fear for them--'tis when they
are gone into the world, whither I shall not be able to follow
them. Beatrix will begin her service next year. You may have
heard a rumor about--about my Lord Blandford. They were both
children; and it is but idle talk. I know my kinswoman would never
let him make such a poor marriage as our Beatrix would be. There's
scarce a princess in Europe that she thinks is good enough for him
or for her ambition."
"There's not a princess in Europe to compare with her," says
"In beauty? No, perhaps not," answered my lady. "She is most
beautiful, isn't she? 'Tis not a mother's partiality that deceives
me. I marked you yesterday when she came down the stair: and read
it in your face. We look when you don't fancy us looking, and see
better than you think, dear Harry: and just now when they spoke
about your poems--you writ pretty lines when you were but a boy--
you thought Beatrix was a pretty subject for verse, did not you,
Harry?" (The gentleman could only blush for a reply.) "And so she
is--nor are you the first her pretty face has captivated. 'Tis
quickly done. Such a pair of bright eyes as hers learn their power
very soon, and use it very early." And, looking at him keenly with
hers, the fair widow left him.
And so it is--a pair of bright eyes with a dozen glances suffice to
subdue a man; to enslave him, and inflame him; to make him even
forget; they dazzle him so that the past becomes straightway dim to
him; and he so prizes them that he would give all his life to
possess 'em. What is the fond love of dearest friends compared to
this treasure? Is memory as strong as expectancy? fruition, as
hunger? gratitude, as desire? I have looked at royal diamonds in
the jewel-rooms in Europe, and thought how wars have been made
about 'em; Mogul sovereigns deposed and strangled for them, or
ransomed with them; millions expended to buy them; and daring lives
lost in digging out the little shining toys that I value no more
than the button in my hat. And so there are other glittering
baubles (of rare water too) for which men have been set to kill and
quarrel ever since mankind began; and which last but for a score of
years, when their sparkle is over. Where are those jewels now that
beamed under Cleopatra's forehead, or shone in the sockets of
The second day after Esmond's coming to Walcote, Tom Tusher had
leave to take a holiday, and went off in his very best gown and
bands to court the young woman whom his Reverence desired to marry,
and who was not a viscount's widow, as it turned out, but a
brewer's relict at Southampton, with a couple of thousand pounds to
her fortune: for honest Tom's heart was under such excellent
control, that Venus herself without a portion would never have
caused it to flutter. So he rode away on his heavy-paced gelding
to pursue his jog-trot loves, leaving Esmond to the society of his
dear mistress and her daughter, and with his young lord for a
companion, who was charmed, not only to see an old friend, but to
have the tutor and his Latin books put out of the way.
The boy talked of things and people, and not a little about
himself, in his frank artless way. 'Twas easy to see that he and
his sister had the better of their fond mother, for the first place
in whose affections, though they fought constantly, and though the
kind lady persisted that she loved both equally, 'twas not
difficult to understand that Frank was his mother's darling and
favorite. He ruled the whole household (always excepting
rebellious Beatrix) not less now than when he was a child
marshalling the village boys in playing at soldiers, and caning
them lustily too, like the sturdiest corporal. As for Tom Tusher,
his Reverence treated the young lord with that politeness and
deference which he always showed for a great man, whatever his age
or his stature was. Indeed, with respect to this young one, it was
impossible not to love him, so frank and winning were his manners,
his beauty, his gayety, the ring of his laughter, and the
delightful tone of his voice. Wherever he went, he charmed and
domineered. I think his old grandfather the Dean, and the grim old
housekeeper, Mrs. Pincot, were as much his slaves as his mother
was: and as for Esmond, he found himself presently submitting to a
certain fascination the boy had, and slaving it like the rest of
the family. The pleasure which he had in Frank's mere company and
converse exceeded that which he ever enjoyed in the society of any
other man, however delightful in talk, or famous for wit. His
presence brought sunshine into a room, his laugh, his prattle, his
noble beauty and brightness of look cheered and charmed
indescribably. At the least tale of sorrow, his hands were in his
purse, and he was eager with sympathy and bounty. The way in which
women loved and petted him, when, a year or two afterwards, he came
upon the world, yet a mere boy, and the follies which they did for
him (as indeed he for them), recalled the career of Rochester, and
outdid the successes of Grammont. His very creditors loved him;
and the hardest usurers, and some of the rigid prudes of the other
sex too, could deny him nothing. He was no more witty than another
man, but what he said, he said and looked as no man else could say
or look it. I have seen the women at the comedy at Bruxelles crowd
round him in the lobby: and as he sat on the stage more people
looked at him than at the actors, and watched him; and I remember
at Ramillies, when he was hit and fell, a great big red-haired
Scotch sergeant flung his halbert down, burst out a-crying like a
woman, seizing him up as if he had been an infant, and carrying him
out of the fire. This brother and sister were the most beautiful
couple ever seen; though after he winged away from the maternal
nest this pair were seldom together.
Sitting at dinner two days after Esmond's arrival (it was the last
day of the year), and so happy a one to Harry Esmond, that to enjoy
it was quite worth all the previous pain which he had endured and
forgot, my young lord, filling a bumper, and bidding Harry take
another, drank to his sister, saluting her under the title of
"Marchioness!" says Harry, not without a pang of wonder, for he was
curious and jealous already.
"Nonsense, my lord," says Beatrix, with a toss of her head. My
Lady Viscountess looked up for a moment at Esmond, and cast her
"The Marchioness of Blandford," says Frank. "Don't you know--hath
not Rouge Dragon told you?" (My lord used to call the Dowager of
Chelsey by this and other names.) "Blandford has a lock of her
hair: the Duchess found him on his knees to Mistress Trix, and
boxed his ears, and said Dr. Hare should whip him."
"I wish Mr. Tusher would whip you too," says Beatrix.
My lady only said: "I hope you will tell none of these silly
stories elsewhere than at home, Francis."
"'Tis true, on my word," continues Frank: "look at Harry scowling,
mother, and see how Beatrix blushes as red as the silver-clocked
"I think we had best leave the gentlemen to their wine and their
talk," says Mistress Beatrix, rising up with the air of a young
queen, tossing her rustling flowing draperies about her, and
quitting the room, followed by her mother.
Lady Castlewood again looked at Esmond, as she stooped down and
kissed Frank. "Do not tell those silly stories, child," she said:
"do not drink much wine, sir; Harry never loved to drink wine."
And she went away, too, in her black robes, looking back on the
young man with her fair, fond face.
"Egad! it's true," says Frank, sipping his wine with the air of a
lord. "What think you of this Lisbon--real Collares? 'Tis better
than your heady port: we got it out of one of the Spanish ships
that came from Vigo last year: my mother bought it at Southampton,
as the ship was lying there--the 'Rose,' Captain Hawkins."
"Why, I came home in that ship," says Harry.
"And it brought home a good fellow and good wine," says my lord.
"I say, Harry, I wish thou hadst not that cursed bar sinister."
"And why not the bar sinister?" asks the other.
"Suppose I go to the army and am killed--every gentleman goes to
the army--who is to take care of the women? Trix will never stop
at home; mother's in love with you,--yes, I think mother's in love
with you. She was always praising you, and always talking about
you; and when she went to Southampton, to see the ship, I found her
out. But you see it is impossible: we are of the oldest blood in
England; we came in with the Conqueror; we were only baronets,--but
what then? we were forced into that. James the First forced our
great grandfather. We are above titles; we old English gentry
don't want 'em; the Queen can make a duke any day. Look at
Blandford's father, Duke Churchill, and Duchess Jennings, what were
they, Harry? Damn it, sir, what are they, to turn up their noses
at us? Where were they when our ancestor rode with King Henry at
Agincourt, and filled up the French King's cup after Poictiers?
'Fore George, sir, why shouldn't Blandford marry Beatrix? By G--!
he SHALL marry Beatrix, or tell me the reason why. We'll marry
with the best blood of England, and none but the best blood of
England. You are an Esmond, and you can't help your birth, my boy.
Let's have another bottle. What! no more? I've drunk three parts
of this myself. I had many a night with my father; you stood to
him like a man, Harry. You backed your blood; you can't help your
misfortune, you know,--no man can help that."
The elder said he would go in to his mistress's tea-table. The
young lad, with a heightened color and voice, began singing a
snatch of a song, and marched out of the room. Esmond heard him
presently calling his dogs about him, and cheering and talking to
them; and by a hundred of his looks and gestures, tricks of voice
and gait, was reminded of the dead lord, Frank's father.
And so, the sylvester night passed away; the family parted long
before midnight, Lady Castlewood remembering, no doubt, former New
Years' Eves, when healths were drunk, and laughter went round in
the company of him, to whom years, past, and present, and future,
were to be as one; and so cared not to sit with her children and
hear the Cathedral bells ringing the birth of the year 1703.
Esmond heard the chimes as he sat in his own chamber, ruminating by
the blazing fire there, and listened to the last notes of them,
looking out from his window towards the city, and the great gray
towers of the Cathedral lying under the frosty sky, with the keen
stars shining above.
The sight of these brilliant orbs no doubt made him think of other
luminaries. "And so her eyes have already done execution," thought
Esmond--"on whom?--who can tell me?" Luckily his kinsman was by,
and Esmond knew he would have no difficulty in finding out Mistress
Beatrix's history from the simple talk of the boy.
What Harry admired and submitted to in the pretty lad his kinsman
was (for why should he resist it?) the calmness of patronage which
my young lord assumed, as if to command was his undoubted right,
and all the world (below his degree) ought to bow down to Viscount
"I know my place, Harry," he said. "I'm not proud--the boys at
Winchester College say I'm proud: but I'm not proud. I am simply
Francis James Viscount Castlewood in the peerage of Ireland. I
might have been (do you know that?) Francis James Marquis and Earl
of Esmond in that of England. The late lord refused the title
which was offered to him by my godfather, his late Majesty. You
should know that--you are of our family, you know you cannot help
your bar sinister, Harry, my dear fellow; and you belong to one of
the best families in England, in spite of that; and you stood by my
father, and by G--! I'll stand by you. You shall never want a
friend, Harry, while Francis James Viscount Castlewood has a
shilling. It's now 1703--I shall come of age in 1709. I shall go
back to Castlewood; I shall live at Castlewood; I shall build up
the house. My property will be pretty well restored by then. The
late viscount mismanaged my property, and left it in a very bad
state. My mother is living close, as you see, and keeps me in a
way hardly befitting a peer of these realms; for I have but a pair
of horses, a governor, and a man that is valet and groom. But when
I am of age, these things will be set right, Harry. Our house will
be as it should be. You will always come to Castlewood, won't you?
You shall always have your two rooms in the court kept for you; and
if anybody slights you, d--- them! let them have a care of ME. I
shall marry early--Trix will be a duchess by that time, most
likely; for a cannon ball may knock over his grace any day, you
"How?" says Harry.
"Hush, my dear!" says my Lord Viscount. "You are of the family--
you are faithful to us, by George, and I tell you everything.
Blandford will marry her--or"--and here he put his little hand on
his sword--"you understand the rest. Blandford knows which of us
two is the best weapon. At small-sword, or back-sword, or sword
and dagger if he likes; I can beat him. I have tried him, Harry;
and begad he knows I am a man not to be trifled with."
"But you do not mean," says Harry, concealing his laughter, but not
his wonder, "that you can force my Lord Blandford, the son of the
first man of this kingdom, to marry your sister at sword's point?"
"I mean to say that we are cousins by the mother's side, though
that's nothing to boast of. I mean to say that an Esmond is as
good as a Churchill; and when the King comes back, the Marquis of
Esmond's sister may be a match for any nobleman's daughter in the
kingdom. There are but two marquises in all England, William
Herbert Marquis of Powis, and Francis James Marquis of Esmond; and
hark you, Harry,--now swear you will never mention this. Give me
your honor as a gentleman, for you ARE a gentleman, though you are
"Well, well?" says Harry, a little impatient.
"Well, then, when after my late viscount's misfortune, my mother
went up with us to London, to ask for justice against you all (as
for Mohun, I'll have his blood, as sure as my name is Francis
Viscount Esmond)--we went to stay with our cousin my Lady
Marlborough, with whom we had quarrelled for ever so long. But
when misfortune came, she stood by her blood:--so did the Dowager
Viscountess stand by her blood,--so did you. Well, sir, whilst my
mother was petitioning the late Prince of Orange--for I will never
call him king--and while you were in prison, we lived at my Lord
Marlborough's house, who was only a little there, being away with
the army in Holland. And then . . . I say, Harry, you won't tell,
Harry again made a vow of secrecy.
"Well, there used to be all sorts of fun, you know: my Lady
Marlborough was very fond of us, and she said I was to be her page;
and she got Trix to be a maid of honor, and while she was up in her
room crying, we used to be always having fun, you know; and the
Duchess used to kiss me, and so did her daughters, and Blandford
fell tremendous in love with Trix, and she liked him; and one day
he--he kissed her behind a door--he did though,--and the Duchess
caught him, and she banged such a box of the ear both at Trix and
Blandford--you should have seen it! And then she said that we must
leave directly, and abused my mamma who was cognizant of the
business; but she wasn't--never thinking about anything but father.
And so we came down to Walcote. Blandford being locked up, and not
allowed to see Trix. But I got at him. I climbed along the
gutter, and in through the window, where he was crying.
"'Marquis,' says I, when he had opened it and helped me in, 'you
know I wear a sword,' for I had brought it.
"'Oh, viscount,' says he--'oh, my dearest Frank!' and he threw
himself into my arms and burst out a-crying. 'I do love Mistress
Beatrix so, that I shall die if I don't have her.'
"'My dear Blandford,' says I, 'you are young to think of marrying;'
for he was but fifteen, and a young fellow of that age can scarce
do so, you know.
"'But I'll wait twenty years, if she'll have me,' says he. 'I'll
never marry--no, never, never, never, marry anybody but her. No,
not a princess, though they would have me do it ever so. If
Beatrix will wait for me, her Blandford swears he will be
faithful.' And he wrote a paper (it wasn't spelt right, for he
wrote 'I'm ready to SINE WITH MY BLODE,' which, you know, Harry,
isn't the way of spelling it), and vowing that he would marry none
other but the Honorable Mistress Gertrude Beatrix Esmond, only
sister of his dearest friend Francis James, fourth Viscount Esmond.
And so I gave him a locket of her hair."
"A locket of her hair?" cries Esmond.
"Yes. Trix gave me one after the fight with the Duchess that very
day. I am sure I didn't want it; and so I gave it him, and we
kissed at parting, and said--'Good-by, brother.' And I got back
through the gutter; and we set off home that very evening. And he
went to King's College, in Cambridge, and I'M going to Cambridge
soon; and if he doesn't stand to his promise (for he's only wrote
once),--he knows I wear a sword, Harry. Come along, and let's go
see the cocking-match at Winchester.
". . . . But I say," he added, laughing, after a pause, "I don't
think Trix will break her heart about him. La bless you! whenever
she sees a man, she makes eyes at him; and young Sir Wilmot Crawley
of Queen's Crawley, and Anthony Henley of Airesford, were at swords
drawn about her, at the Winchester Assembly, a month ago."
That night Mr. Harry's sleep was by no means so pleasant or sweet
as it had been on the first two evenings after his arrival at
Walcote. "So the bright eyes have been already shining on
another," thought he, "and the pretty lips, or the cheeks at any
rate, have begun the work which they were made for. Here's a girl
not sixteen, and one young gentleman is already whimpering over a
lock of her hair, and two country squires are ready to cut each
other's throats that they may have the honor of a dance with her.
What a fool am I to be dallying about this passion, and singeing my
wings in this foolish flame. Wings!--why not say crutches? 'There
is but eight years' difference between us, to be sure; but in life
I am thirty years older. How could I ever hope to please such a
sweet creature as that, with my rough ways and glum face? Say that
I have merit ever so much, and won myself a name, could she ever
listen to me? She must be my Lady Marchioness, and I remain a
nameless bastard. Oh! my master, my master!" (here he fell to
thinking with a passionate grief of the vow which he had made to
his poor dying lord.) "Oh! my mistress, dearest and kindest, will
you be contented with the sacrifice which the poor orphan makes for
you, whom you love, and who so loves you?"
And then came a fiercer pang of temptation. "A word from me,"
Harry thought, "a syllable of explanation, and all this might be
changed; but no, I swore it over the dying bed of my benefactor.
For the sake of him and his; for the sacred love and kindness of
old days; I gave my promise to him, and may kind heaven enable me
to keep my vow!"
The next day, although Esmond gave no sign of what was going on in
his mind, but strove to be more than ordinarily gay and cheerful
when he met his friends at the morning meal, his dear mistress,
whose clear eyes it seemed no emotion of his could escape,
perceived that something troubled him, for she looked anxiously
towards him more than once during the breakfast, and when he went
up to his chamber afterwards she presently followed him, and
knocked at his door.
As she entered, no doubt the whole story was clear to her at once,
for she found our young gentleman packing his valise, pursuant to
the resolution which he had come to over-night of making a brisk
retreat out of this temptation.
She closed the door very carefully behind her, and then leant
against it, very pale, her hands folded before her, looking at the
young man, who was kneeling over his work of packing. "Are you
going so soon?" she said.
He rose up from his knees, blushing, perhaps, to be so discovered,
in the very act, as it were, and took one of her fair little hands--
it was that which had her marriage ring on--and kissed it.
"It is best that it should be so, dearest lady," he said.
"I knew you were going, at breakfast. I--I thought you might stay.
What has happened? Why can't you remain longer with us? What has
Frank told you--you were talking together late last night?"
"I had but three days' leave from Chelsey," Esmond said, as gayly
as he could. "My aunt--she lets me call her aunt--is my mistress
now! I owe her my lieutenancy and my laced coat. She has taken me
into high favor; and my new General is to dine at Chelsey to-
morrow--General Lumley, madam--who has appointed me his aide-de-
camp, and on whom I must have the honor of waiting. See, here is a
letter from the Dowager; the post brought it last night; and I
would not speak of it, for fear of disturbing our last merry
My lady glanced at the letter, and put it down with a smile that
was somewhat contemptuous. "I have no need to read the letter,"
says she--(indeed, 'twas as well she did not; for the Chelsey
missive, in the poor Dowager's usual French jargon, permitted him a
longer holiday than he said. "Je vous donne," quoth her ladyship,
"oui jour, pour vous fatigay parfaictement de vos parens
fatigans")--"I have no need to read the letter," says she. "What
was it Frank told you last night?"
"He told me little I did not know," Mr. Esmond answered. "But I
have thought of that little, and here's the result: I have no right
to the name I bear, dear lady; and it is only by your sufferance
that I am allowed to keep it. If I thought for an hour of what has
perhaps crossed your mind too--"
"Yes, I did, Harry," said she; "I thought of it; and think of it.
I would sooner call you my son than the greatest prince in Europe--
yes, than the greatest prince. For who is there so good and so
brave, and who would love her as you would? But there are reasons
a mother can't tell."
"I know them," said Mr. Esmond, interrupting her with a smile. "I
know there's Sir Wilmot Crawley of Queen's Crawley, and Mr. Anthony
Henley of the Grange, and my Lord Marquis of Blandford, that seems
to be the favored suitor. You shall ask me to wear my Lady
Marchioness's favors and to dance at her ladyship's wedding."
"Oh! Harry, Harry, it is none of these follies that frighten me,"
cried out Lady Castlewood. "Lord Churchill is but a child, his
outbreak about Beatrix was a mere boyish folly. His parents would
rather see him buried than married to one below him in rank. And
do you think that I would stoop to sue for a husband for Francis
Esmond's daughter; or submit to have my girl smuggled into that
proud family to cause a quarrel between son and parents, and to be
treated only as an inferior? I would disdain such a meanness.
Beatrix would scorn it. Ah! Henry, 'tis not with you the fault
lies, 'tis with her. I know you both, and love you: need I be
ashamed of that love now? No, never, never, and 'tis not you, dear
Harry, that is unworthy. 'Tis for my poor Beatrix I tremble--whose
headstrong will frightens me; whose jealous temper (they say I was
jealous too, but, pray God, I am cured of that sin) and whose
vanity no words or prayers of mine can cure--only suffering, only
experience, and remorse afterwards. Oh! Henry, she will make no
man happy who loves her. Go away, my son: leave her: love us
always, and think kindly of us: and for me, my dear, you know that
these walls contain all that I love in the world."
In after life, did Esmond find the words true which his fond
mistress spoke from her sad heart? Warning he had: but I doubt
others had warning before his time, and since: and he benefited by
it as most men do.
My young Lord Viscount was exceeding sorry when he heard that Harry
could not come to the cock-match with him, and must go to London,
but no doubt my lord consoled himself when the Hampshire cocks won
the match; and he saw every one of the battles, and crowed properly
over the conquered Sussex gentlemen.
As Esmond rode towards town his servant, coming up to him, informed
him with a grin, that Mistress Beatrix had brought out a new gown
and blue stockings for that day's dinner, in which she intended to
appear, and had flown into a rage and given her maid a slap on the
face soon after she heard he was going away. Mistress Beatrix's
woman, the fellow said, came down to the servants' hall crying, and
with the mark of a blow still on her cheek: but Esmond peremptorily
ordered him to fall back and be silent, and rode on with thoughts
enough of his own to occupy him--some sad ones, some inexpressibly
dear and pleasant.
His mistress, from whom he had been a year separated, was his
dearest mistress again. The family from which he had been parted,
and which he loved with the fondest devotion, was his family once
more. If Beatrix's beauty shone upon him, it was with a friendly
lustre, and he could regard it with much such a delight as he
brought away after seeing the beautiful pictures of the smiling
Madonnas in the convent at Cadiz, when he was despatched thither
with a flag; and as for his mistress, 'twas difficult to say with
what a feeling he regarded her. 'Twas happiness to have seen her;
'twas no great pang to part; a filial tenderness, a love that was
at once respect and protection, filled his mind as he thought of
her; and near her or far from her, and from that day until now, and
from now till death is past and beyond it, he prays that sacred
flame may ever burn.
I MAKE THE CAMPAIGN OF 1704.
Mr. Esmond rode up to London then, where, if the Dowager had been
angry at the abrupt leave of absence he took, she was mightily
pleased at his speedy return.
He went immediately and paid his court to his new general, General
Lumley, who received him graciously, having known his father, and
also, he was pleased to say, having had the very best accounts of
Mr. Esmond from the officer whose aide-de-camp he had been at Vigo.
During this winter Mr. Esmond was gazetted to a lieutenancy in
Brigadier Webb's regiment of Fusileers, then with their colonel in
Flanders; but being now attached to the suite of Mr. Lumley, Esmond
did not join his own regiment until more than a year afterwards,
and after his return from the campaign of Blenheim, which was
fought the next year. The campaign began very early, our troops
marching out of their quarters before the winter was almost over,
and investing the city of Bonn, on the Rhine, under the Duke's
command. His Grace joined the army in deep grief of mind, with
crape on his sleeve, and his household in mourning; and the very
same packet which brought the Commander-in-Chief over, brought
letters to the forces which preceded him, and one from his dear
mistress to Esmond, which interested him not a little.
The young Marquis of Blandford, his Grace's son, who had been
entered in King's College in Cambridge, (whither my Lord Viscount
had also gone, to Trinity, with Mr. Tusher as his governor,) had
been seized with small-pox, and was dead at sixteen years of age,
and so poor Frank's schemes for his sister's advancement were over,
and that innocent childish passion nipped in the birth.
Esmond's mistress would have had him return, at least her letters
hinted as much; but in the presence of the enemy this was
impossible, and our young man took his humble share in the siege,
which need not be described here, and had the good luck to escape
without a wound of any sort, and to drink his general's health
after the surrender. He was in constant military duty this year,
and did not think of asking for a leave of absence, as one or two
of his less fortunate friends did, who were cast away in that
tremendous storm which happened towards the close of November, that
"which of late o'er pale Britannia past" (as Mr. Addison sang of
it), and in which scores of our greatest ships and 15,000 of our
seamen went down.
They said that our Duke was quite heart-broken by the calamity
which had befallen his family; but his enemies found that he could
subdue them, as well as master his grief. Successful as had been
this great General's operations in the past year, they were far
enhanced by the splendor of his victory in the ensuing campaign.
His Grace the Captain-General went to England after Bonn, and our
army fell back into Holland, where, in April 1704, his Grace again
found the troops, embarking from Harwich and landing at Maesland
Sluys: thence his Grace came immediately to the Hague, where he
received the foreign ministers, general officers, and other people
of quality. The greatest honors were paid to his Grace everywhere--
at the Hague, Utrecht, Ruremonde, and Maestricht; the civil
authorities coming to meet his coaches: salvos of cannon saluting
him, canopies of state being erected for him where he stopped, and
feasts prepared for the numerous gentlemen following in his suite.
His Grace reviewed the troops of the States-General between Liege
and Maestricht, and afterwards the English forces, under the
command of General Churchill, near Bois-le-Duc. Every preparation
was made for a long march; and the army heard, with no small
elation, that it was the Commander-in-Chief's intention to carry
the war out of the Low Countries, and to march on the Mozelle.
Before leaving our camp at Maestricht, we heard that the French,
under the Marshal Villeroy, were also bound towards the Mozelle.
Towards the end of May, the army reached Coblentz; and next day,
his Grace, and the generals accompanying him, went to visit the
Elector of Treves at his Castle of Ehrenbreitstein, the horse and
dragoons passing the Rhine whilst the Duke was entertained at a
grand feast by the Elector. All as yet was novelty, festivity, and
splendor--a brilliant march of a great and glorious army through a
friendly country, and sure through some of the most beautiful
scenes of nature which I ever witnessed.
The foot and artillery, following after the horse as quick as
possible, crossed the Rhine under Ehrenbreitstein, and so to
Castel, over against Mayntz, in which city his Grace, his generals,
and his retinue were received at the landing-place by the Elector's
coaches, carried to his Highness's palace amidst the thunder of
cannon, and then once more magnificently entertained. Gidlingen,
in Bavaria, was appointed as the general rendezvous of the army,
and thither, by different routes, the whole forces of English,
Dutch, Danes, and German auxiliaries took their way. The foot and
artillery under General Churchill passed the Neckar, at Heidelberg;
and Esmond had an opportunity of seeing that city and palace, once
so famous and beautiful (though shattered and battered by the
French, under Turenne, in the late war), where his grandsire had
served the beautiful and unfortunate Electress-Palatine, the first
King Charles's sister.
At Mindelsheim, the famous Prince of Savoy came to visit our
commander, all of us crowding eagerly to get a sight of that
brilliant and intrepid warrior; and our troops were drawn up in
battalia before the Prince, who was pleased to express his
admiration of this noble English army. At length we came in sight
of the enemy between Dillingen and Lawingen, the Brentz lying
between the two armies. The Elector, judging that Donauwort would
be the point of his Grace's attack, sent a strong detachment of his
best troops to Count Darcos, who was posted at Schellenberg, near
that place, where great intrenchments were thrown up, and thousands
of pioneers employed to strengthen the position.
On the 2nd of July his Grace stormed the post, with what success on
our part need scarce be told. His Grace advanced with six thousand
foot, English and Dutch, thirty squadrons, and three regiments of
Imperial Cuirassiers, the Duke crossing the river at the head of
the cavalry. Although our troops made the attack with unparalleled
courage and fury--rushing up to the very guns of the enemy, and
being slaughtered before their works--we were driven back many
times, and should not have carried them, but that the Imperialists
came up under the Prince of Baden, when the enemy could make no
head against us: we pursued them into the trenches, making a
terrible slaughter there, and into the very Danube, where a great
part of his troops, following the example of their generals, Count
Darcos and the Elector himself, tried to save themselves by
swimming. Our army entered Donauwort, which the Bavarians
evacuated; and where 'twas said the Elector purposed to have given
us a warm reception, by burning us in our beds; the cellars of the
houses, when we took possession of them, being found stuffed with
straw. But though the links were there, the link-boys had run
away. The townsmen saved their houses, and our General took
possession of the enemy's ammunition in the arsenals, his stores,
and magazines. Five days afterwards a great "Te Deum" was sung in
Prince Lewis's army, and a solemn day of thanksgiving held in our
own; the Prince of Savoy's compliments coming to his Grace the
Captain-General during the day's religious ceremony, and
concluding, as it were, with an Amen.
And now, having seen a great military march through a friendly
country; the pomps and festivities of more than one German court;
the severe struggle of a hotly contested battle, and the triumph of
victory, Mr. Esmond beheld another part of military duty: our
troops entering the enemy's territory, and putting all around them
to fire and sword; burning farms, wasted fields, shrieking women,
slaughtered sons and fathers, and drunken soldiery, cursing and
carousing in the midst of tears, terror, and murder. Why does the
stately Muse of History, that delights in describing the valor of
heroes and the grandeur of conquest, leave out these scenes, so
brutal, mean, and degrading, that yet form by far the greater part
of the drama of war? You, gentlemen of England, who live at home
at ease, and compliment yourselves in the songs of triumph with
which our chieftains are bepraised--you pretty maidens, that come
tumbling down the stairs when the fife and drum call you, and
huzzah for the British Grenadiers--do you take account that these
items go to make up the amount of the triumph you admire, and form
part of the duties of the heroes you fondle? Our chief, whom
England and all Europe, saving only the Frenchmen, worshipped
almost, had this of the godlike in him, that he was impassible
before victory, before danger, before defeat. Before the greatest
obstacle or the most trivial ceremony; before a hundred thousand
men drawn in battalia, or a peasant slaughtered at the door of his
burning hovel; before a carouse of drunken German lords, or a
monarch's court or a cottage table, where his plans were laid, or
an enemy's battery, vomiting flame and death, and strewing corpses
round about him;--he was always cold, calm, resolute, like fate.
He performed a treason or a court-bow, he told a falsehood as black
as Styx, as easily as he paid a compliment or spoke about the
weather. He took a mistress, and left her; he betrayed his
benefactor, and supported him, or would have murdered him, with the
same calmness always, and having no more remorse than Clotho when
she weaves the thread, or Lachesis when she cuts it. In the hour
of battle I have heard the Prince of Savoy's officers say, the
Prince became possessed with a sort of warlike fury; his eyes
lighted up; he rushed hither and thither, raging; he shrieked
curses and encouragement, yelling and harking his bloody war-dogs
on, and himself always at the first of the hunt. Our duke was as
calm at the mouth of the cannon as at the door of a drawing-room.
Perhaps he could not have been the great man he was, had he had a
heart either for love or hatred, or pity or fear, or regret or
remorse. He achieved the highest deed of daring, or deepest
calculation of thought, as he performed the very meanest action of
which a man is capable; told a lie, or cheated a fond woman, or
robbed a poor beggar of a halfpenny, with a like awful serenity and
equal capacity of the highest and lowest acts of our nature.
His qualities were pretty well known in the army, where there were
parties of all politics, and of plenty of shrewdness and wit; but
there existed such a perfect confidence in him, as the first
captain of the world, and such a faith and admiration in his
prodigious genius and fortune, that the very men whom he
notoriously cheated of their pay, the chiefs whom he used and
injured--(for he used all men, great and small, that came near him,
as his instruments alike, and took something of theirs, either some
quality or some property--the blood of a soldier, it might be, or a
jewelled hat, or a hundred thousand crowns from a king, or a
portion out of a starving sentinel's three-farthings; or (when he
was young) a kiss from a woman, and the gold chain off her neck,
taking all he could from woman or man, and having, as I have said,
this of the godlike in him, that he could see a hero perish or a
sparrow fall, with the same amount of sympathy for either. Not
that he had no tears; he could always order up this reserve at the
proper moment to battle; he could draw upon tears or smiles alike,
and whenever need was for using this cheap coin. He would cringe
to a shoeblack, as he would flatter a minister or a monarch; be
haughty, be humble, threaten, repent, weep, grasp your hand, (or
stab you whenever he saw occasion)--but yet those of the army, who
knew him best and had suffered most from him, admired him most of
all: and as he rode along the lines to battle or galloped up in the
nick of time to a battalion reeling from before the enemy's charge
or shot, the fainting men and officers got new courage as they saw
the splendid calm of his face, and felt that his will made them
After the great victory of Blenheim the enthusiasm of the army for
the Duke, even of his bitterest personal enemies in it, amounted to
a sort of rage--nay, the very officers who cursed him in their
hearts were among the most frantic to cheer him. Who could refuse
his meed of admiration to such a victory and such a victor? Not he
who writes: a man may profess to be ever so much a philosopher; but
he who fought on that day must feel a thrill of pride as he recalls
The French right was posted near to the village of Blenheim, on the
Danube, where the Marshal Tallard's quarters were; their line
extending through, it may be a league and a half, before Lutzingen
and up to a woody hill, round the base of which, and acting against
the Prince of Savoy, were forty of his squadrons.
Here was a village that the Frenchmen had burned, the wood being,
in fact, a better shelter and easier of guard than any village.
Before these two villages and the French lines ran a little stream,
not more than two foot broad, through a marsh (that was mostly
dried up from the heats of the weather), and this stream was the
only separation between the two armies--ours coming up and ranging
themselves in line of battle before the French, at six o'clock in
the morning; so that our line was quite visible to theirs; and the
whole of this great plain was black and swarming with troops for
hours before the cannonading began.
On one side and the other this cannonading lasted many hours. The
French guns being in position in front of their line, and doing
severe damage among our horse especially, and on our right wing of
Imperialists under the Prince of Savoy, who could neither advance
his artillery nor his lines, the ground before him being cut up by
ditches, morasses, and very difficult of passage for the guns.
It was past mid-day when the attack began on our left, where Lord
Cutts commanded, the bravest and most beloved officer in the
English army. And now, as if to make his experience in war
complete, our young aide-de-camp having seen two great armies
facing each other in line of battle, and had the honor of riding
with orders from one end to other of the line, came in for a not
uncommon accompaniment of military glory, and was knocked on the
head, along with many hundred of brave fellows, almost at the very
commencement of this famous day of Blenheim. A little after noon,
the disposition for attack being completed with much delay and
difficulty, and under a severe fire from the enemy's guns, that
were better posted and more numerous than ours, a body of English
and Hessians, with Major-General Wilkes commanding at the extreme
left of our line, marched upon Blenheim, advancing with great
gallantry, the Major-General on foot, with his officers, at the
head of the column, and marching, with his hat off, intrepidly in
the face of the enemy, who was pouring in a tremendous fire from
his guns and musketry, to which our people were instructed not to
reply, except with pike and bayonet when they reached the French
palisades. To these Wilkes walked intrepidly, and struck the
woodwork with his sword before our people charged it. He was shot
down at the instant, with his colonel, major, and several officers;
and our troops cheering and huzzaing, and coming on, as they did,
with immense resolution and gallantry, were nevertheless stopped by
the murderous fire from behind the enemy's defences, and then
attacked in flank by a furious charge of French horse which swept
out of Blenheim, and cut down our men in great numbers. Three
fierce and desperate assaults of our foot were made and repulsed by
the enemy; so that our columns of foot were quite shattered, and
fell back, scrambling over the little rivulet, which we had crossed
so resolutely an hour before, and pursued by the French cavalry,
slaughtering us and cutting us down.
And now the conquerors were met by a furious charge of English
horse under Esmond's general, General Lumley, behind whose
squadrons the flying foot found refuge, and formed again, whilst
Lumley drove back the French horse, charging up to the village of
Blenheim and the palisades where Wilkes, and many hundred more
gallant Englishmen, lay in slaughtered heaps. Beyond this moment,
and of this famous victory, Mr. Esmond knows nothing; for a shot
brought down his horse and our young gentleman on it, who fell
crushed and stunned under the animal, and came to his senses he
knows not how long after, only to lose them again from pain and
loss of blood. A dim sense, as of people groaning round about him,
a wild incoherent thought or two for her who occupied so much of
his heart now, and that here his career, and his hopes, and
misfortunes were ended, he remembers in the course of these hours.
When he woke up, it was with a pang of extreme pain, his
breastplate was taken off, his servant was holding his head up, the
good and faithful lad of Hampshire* was blubbering over his master,
whom he found and had thought dead, and a surgeon was probing a
wound in the shoulder, which he must have got at the same moment
when his horse was shot and fell over him. The battle was over at
this end of the field, by this time: the village was in possession
of the English, its brave defenders prisoners, or fled, or drowned,
many of them, in the neighboring waters of Donau. But for honest
Lockwood's faithful search after his master, there had no doubt
been an end of Esmond here, and of this his story. The marauders
were out riffling the bodies as they lay on the field, and Jack had
brained one of these gentry with the club-end of his musket, who
had eased Esmond of his hat and periwig, his purse, and fine
silver-mounted pistols which the Dowager gave him, and was fumbling
in his pockets for further treasure, when Jack Lockwood came up and
put an end to the scoundrel's triumph.
* My mistress, before I went this campaign, sent me John Lockwood
out of Walcote, who hath ever since remained with me.--H. E.
Hospitals for our wounded were established at Blenheim, and here
for several weeks Esmond lay in very great danger of his life; the
wound was not very great from which he suffered, and the ball
extracted by the surgeon on the spot where our young gentleman
received it; but a fever set in next day, as he was lying in
hospital, and that almost carried him away. Jack Lockwood said he
talked in the wildest manner during his delirium; that he called
himself the Marquis of Esmond, and seizing one of the surgeon's
assistants who came to dress his wounds, swore that he was Madam
Beatrix, and that he would make her a duchess if she would but say
yes. He was passing the days in these crazy fancies, and vana
somnia, whilst the army was singing "Te Deum" for the victory, and
those famous festivities were taking place at which our Duke, now
made a Prince of the Empire, was entertained by the King of the
Romans and his nobility. His Grace went home by Berlin and
Hanover, and Esmond lost the festivities which took place at those
cities, and which his general shared in company of the other
general officers who travelled with our great captain. When he
could move, it was by the Duke of Wurtemberg's city of Stuttgard
that he made his way homewards, revisiting Heidelberg again, whence
he went to Manheim, and hence had a tedious but easy water journey
down the river of Rhine, which he had thought a delightful and
beautiful voyage indeed, but that his heart was longing for home,
and something far more beautiful and delightful.
As bright and welcome as the eyes almost of his mistress shone the
lights of Harwich, as the packet came in from Holland. It was not
many hours ere he, Esmond, was in London, of that you may be sure,
and received with open arms by the old Dowager of Chelsey, who
vowed, in her jargon of French and English, that he had the air
noble, that his pallor embellished him, that he was an Amadis and
deserved a Gloriana; and oh! flames and darts! what was his joy at
hearing that his mistress was come into waiting, and was now with
her Majesty at Kensington! Although Mr. Esmond had told Jack
Lockwood to get horses and they would ride for Winchester that
night, when he heard this news he countermanded the horses at once;
his business lay no longer in Hants; all his hope and desire lay
within a couple of miles of him in Kensington Park wall. Poor
Harry had never looked in the glass before so eagerly to see
whether he had the bel air, and his paleness really did become him;
he never took such pains about the curl of his periwig, and the
taste of his embroidery and point-lace, as now, before Mr. Amadis
presented himself to Madam Gloriana. Was the fire of the French
lines half so murderous as the killing glances from her ladyship's
eyes? Oh! darts and raptures, how beautiful were they!
And as, before the blazing sun of morning, the moon fades away in
the sky almost invisible, Esmond thought, with a blush perhaps, of
another sweet pale face, sad and faint, and fading out of sight,
with its sweet fond gaze of affection; such a last look it seemed
to cast as Eurydice might have given, yearning after her lover,
when Fate and Pluto summoned her, and she passed away into the
AN OLD STORY ABOUT A FOOL AND A WOMAN.
Any taste for pleasure which Esmond had (and he liked to desipere
in loco, neither more nor less than most young men of his age) he
could now gratify to the utmost extent, and in the best company
which the town afforded. When the army went into winter quarters
abroad, those of the officers who had interest or money easily got
leave of absence, and found it much pleasanter to spend their time
in Pall Mall and Hyde Park, than to pass the winter away behind the
fortifications of the dreary old Flanders towns, where the English
troops were gathered. Yachts and packets passed daily between the
Dutch and Flemish ports and Harwich; the roads thence to London and
the great inns were crowded with army gentlemen; the taverns and
ordinaries of the town swarmed with red-coats; and our great Duke's
levees at St. James's were as thronged as they had been at Ghent
and Brussels, where we treated him, and he us, with the grandeur
and ceremony of a sovereign. Though Esmond had been appointed to a
lieutenancy in the Fusileer regiment, of which that celebrated
officer, Brigadier John Richmond Webb, was colonel, he had never
joined the regiment, nor been introduced to its excellent
commander, though they had made the same campaign together, and
been engaged in the same battle. But being aide-de-camp to General
Lumley, who commanded the division of horse, and the army marching
to its point of destination on the Danube by different routes,
Esmond had not fallen in, as yet, with his commander and future
comrades of the fort; and it was in London, in Golden Square, where
Major-General Webb lodged, that Captain Esmond had the honor of
first paying his respects to his friend, patron, and commander of
Those who remember this brilliant and accomplished gentleman may
recollect his character, upon which he prided himself, I think, not
a little, of being the handsomest man in the army; a poet who writ
a dull copy of verses upon the battle of Oudenarde three years
after, describing Webb, says:--
"To noble danger Webb conducts the way,
His great example all his troops obey;
Before the front the general sternly rides,
With such an air as Mars to battle strides:
Propitious heaven must sure a hero save,
Like Paris handsome, and like Hector brave."
Mr. Webb thought these verses quite as fine as Mr. Addison's on the
Blenheim Campaign, and, indeed, to be Hector a la mode de Paris,
was part of this gallant gentleman's ambition. It would have been
difficult to find an officer in the whole army, or amongst the
splendid courtiers and cavaliers of the Maison du Roy, that fought
under Vendosme and Villeroy in the army opposed to ours, who was a
more accomplished soldier and perfect gentleman, and either braver
or better-looking. And if Mr. Webb believed of himself what the
world said of him, and was deeply convinced of his own indisputable
genius, beauty, and valor, who has a right to quarrel with him very
much? This self-content of his kept him in general good-humor, of
which his friends and dependants got the benefit.
He came of a very ancient Wiltshire family, which he respected
above all families in the world: he could prove a lineal descent
from King Edward the First, and his first ancestor, Roaldus de
Richmond, rode by William the Conqueror's side on Hastings field.
"We were gentlemen, Esmond," he used to say, "when the Churchills
were horse-boys." He was a very tall man, standing in his pumps
six feet three inches (in his great jack-boots, with his tall fair
periwig, and hat and feather, he could not have been less than
eight feet high). "I am taller than Churchill," he would say,
surveying himself in the glass, "and I am a better made man; and if
the women won't like a man that hasn't a wart on his nose, faith, I
can't help myself, and Churchill has the better of me there."
Indeed, he was always measuring himself with the Duke, and always
asking his friends to measure them. And talking in this frank way,
as he would do, over his cups, wags would laugh and encourage him;
friends would be sorry for him; schemers and flatterers would egg
him on, and tale-bearers carry the stories to headquarters, and
widen the difference which already existed there, between the great
captain and one of the ablest and bravest lieutenants he ever had.
His rancor against the Duke was so apparent, that one saw it in the
first half-hour's conversation with General Webb; and his lady, who
adored her General, and thought him a hundred times taller,
handsomer, and braver than a prodigal nature had made him, hated
the great Duke with such an intensity as it becomes faithful wives
to feel against their husbands' enemies. Not that my Lord Duke was
so yet; Mr. Webb had said a thousand things against him, which his
superior had pardoned; and his Grace, whose spies were everywhere,
had heard a thousand things more that Webb had never said. But it
cost this great man no pains to pardon; and he passed over an
injury or a benefit alike easily.
Should any child of mine take the pains to read these his
ancestor's memoirs, I would not have him judge of the great Duke*
by what a contemporary has written of him. No man hath been so
immensely lauded and decried as this great statesman and warrior;
as, indeed, no man ever deserved better the very greatest praise
and the strongest censure. If the present writer joins with the
latter faction, very likely a private pique of his own may be the
cause of his ill-feeling.
* This passage in the Memoirs of Esmond is written on a leaf
inserted into the MS. book, and dated 1744, probably after he had
heard of the Duchess's death.
On presenting himself at the Commander-in-Chief's levee, his Grace
had not the least remembrance of General Lumley's aide-de-camp, and
though he knew Esmond's family perfectly well, having served with
both lords (my Lord Francis and the Viscount Esmond's father) in
Flanders, and in the Duke of York's Guard, the Duke of Marlborough,
who was friendly and serviceable to the (so-styled) legitimate
representatives of the Viscount Castlewood, took no sort of notice
of the poor lieutenant who bore their name. A word of kindness or
acknowledgment, or a single glance of approbation, might have
changed Esmond's opinion of the great man; and instead of a satire,
which his pen cannot help writing, who knows but that the humble
historian might have taken the other side of panegyric? We have
but to change the point of view, and the greatest action looks
mean; as we turn the perspective-glass, and a giant appears a
pigmy. You may describe, but who can tell whether your sight is
clear or not, or your means of information accurate? Had the great
man said but a word of kindness to the small one (as he would have
stepped out of his gilt chariot to shake hands with Lazarus in rags
and sores, if he thought Lazarus could have been of any service to
him), no doubt Esmond would have fought for him with pen and sword
to the utmost of his might; but my lord the lion did not want
master mouse at this moment, and so Muscipulus went off and nibbled