THE HISTORY OF HENRY ESMOND, ESQ.
A COLONEL IN THE SERVICE OF HER MAJESTY QUEEN ANNE
WRITTEN BY HIMSELF
WILLIAM MAKEPEACE THACKERAY
Boston, Estes and Lauriat, Publishers
TO THE RIGHT HONORABLE
WILLIAM BINGHAM, LORD ASHBURTON.
MY DEAR LORD,
The writer of a book which copies the manners and language of Queen Anne’s time, must not omit the Dedication to the Patron; and I ask leave to inscribe this volume to your Lordship, for the sake of the great kindness and friendship which I owe to you and yours.
My volume will reach you when the Author is on his voyage to a country where your name is as well known as here. Wherever I am, I shall gratefully regard you; and shall not be the less welcomed in America because I am,
Your obliged friend and servant,
W. M. THACKERAY.
LONDON, October 18, 1852.
THE ESMONDS OF VIRGINIA.
The estate of Castlewood, in Virginia, which was given to our ancestors by King Charles the First, as some return for the sacrifices made in his Majesty’s cause by the Esmond family, lies in Westmoreland county, between the rivers Potomac and Rappahannock, and was once as great as an English Principality, though in the early times its revenues were but small. Indeed, for near eighty years after our forefathers possessed them, our plantations were in the hands of factors, who enriched themselves one after another, though a few scores of hogsheads of tobacco were all the produce that, for long after the Restoration, our family received from their Virginian estates.
My dear and honored father, Colonel Henry Esmond, whose history, written by himself, is contained in the accompanying volume, came to Virginia in the year 1718, built his house of Castlewood, and here permanently settled. After a long stormy life in England, he passed the remainder of his many years in peace and honor in this country; how beloved and respected by all his fellow-citizens, how inexpressibly dear to his family, I need not say. His whole life was a benefit to all who were connected with him. He gave the best example, the best advice, the most bounteous hospitality to his friends; the tenderest care to his dependants; and bestowed on those of his immediate family such a blessing of fatherly love and protection as can never be thought of, by us, at least, without veneration and thankfulness; and my sons’ children, whether established here in our Republic, or at home in the always beloved mother country, from which our late quarrel hath separated us, may surely be proud to be descended from one who in all ways was so truly noble.
My dear mother died in 1736, soon after our return from England, whither my parents took me for my education; and where I made the acquaintance of Mr. Warrington, whom my children never saw. When it pleased heaven, in the bloom of his youth, and after but a few months of a most happy union, to remove him from me, I owed my recovery from the grief which that calamity caused me, mainly to my dearest father’s tenderness, and then to the blessing vouchsafed to me in the birth of my two beloved boys. I know the fatal differences which separated them in politics never disunited their hearts; and as I can love them both, whether wearing the King’s colors or the Republic’s, I am sure that they love me and one another, and him above all, my father and theirs, the dearest friend of their childhood, the noble gentleman who bred them from their infancy in the practice and knowledge of Truth, and Love and Honor.
My children will never forget the appearance and figure of their revered grandfather; and I wish I possessed the art of drawing (which my papa had in perfection), so that I could leave to our descendants a portrait of one who was so good and so respected. My father was of a dark complexion, with a very great forehead and dark hazel eyes, overhung by eyebrows which remained black long after his hair was white. His nose was aquiline, his smile extraordinary sweet. How well I remember it, and how little any description I can write can recall his image! He was of rather low stature, not being above five feet seven inches in height; he used to laugh at my sons, whom he called his crutches, and say they were grown too tall for him to lean upon. But small as he was, he had a perfect grace and majesty of deportment, such as I have never seen in this country, except perhaps in our friend Mr. Washington, and commanded respect wherever he appeared.
In all bodily exercises he excelled, and showed an extraordinary quickness and agility. Of fencing he was especially fond, and made my two boys proficient in that art; so much so, that when the French came to this country with Monsieur Rochambeau, not one of his officers was superior to my Henry, and he was not the equal of my poor George, who had taken the King’s side in our lamentable but glorious war of independence.
Neither my father nor my mother ever wore powder in their hair; both their heads were as white as silver, as I can remember them. My dear mother possessed to the last an extraordinary brightness and freshness of complexion; nor would people believe that she did not wear rouge. At sixty years of age she still looked young, and was quite agile. It was not until after that dreadful siege of our house by the Indians, which left me a widow ere I was a mother, that my dear mother’s health broke. She never recovered her terror and anxiety of those days which ended so fatally for me, then a bride scarce six months married, and died in my father’s arms ere my own year of widowhood was over.
From that day, until the last of his dear and honored life, it was my delight and consolation to remain with him as his comforter and companion; and from those little notes which my mother hath made here and there in the volume in which my father describes his adventures in Europe, I can well understand the extreme devotion with which she regarded him–a devotion so passionate and exclusive as to prevent her, I think, from loving any other person except with an inferior regard; her whole thoughts being centred on this one object of affection and worship. I know that, before her, my dear father did not show the love which he had for his daughter; and in her last and most sacred moments, this dear and tender parent owned to me her repentance that she had not loved me enough: her jealousy even that my father should give his affection to any but herself: and in the most fond and beautiful words of affection and admonition, she bade me never to leave him, and to supply the place which she was quitting. With a clear conscience, and a heart inexpressibly thankful, I think I can say that I fulfilled those dying commands, and that until his last hour my dearest father never had to complain that his daughter’s love and fidelity failed him.
And it is since I knew him entirely–for during my mother’s life he never quite opened himself to me–since I knew the value and splendor of that affection which he bestowed upon me, that I have come to understand and pardon what, I own, used to anger me in my mother’s lifetime, her jealousy respecting her husband’s love. ‘Twas a gift so precious, that no wonder she who had it was for keeping it all, and could part with none of it, even to her daughter.
Though I never heard my father use a rough word, ’twas extraordinary with how much awe his people regarded him; and the servants on our plantation, both those assigned from England and the purchased negroes, obeyed him with an eagerness such as the most severe taskmasters round about us could never get from their people. He was never familiar, though perfectly simple and natural; he was the same with the meanest man as with the greatest, and as courteous to a black slave-girl as to the Governor’s wife. No one ever thought of taking a liberty with him (except once a tipsy gentleman from York, and I am bound to own that my papa never forgave him): he set the humblest people at once on their ease with him, and brought down the most arrogant by a grave satiric way, which made persons exceedingly afraid of him. His courtesy was not put on like a Sunday suit, and laid by when the company went away; it was always the same; as he was always dressed the same, whether for a dinner by ourselves or for a great entertainment. They say he liked to be the first in his company; but what company was there in which he would not be first? When I went to Europe for my education, and we passed a winter at London with my half-brother, my Lord Castlewood and his second lady, I saw at her Majesty’s Court some of the most famous gentlemen of those days; and I thought to myself none of these are better than my papa; and the famous Lord Bolingbroke, who came to us from Dawley, said as much, and that the men of that time were not like those of his youth:–“Were your father, Madam,” he said, “to go into the woods, the Indians would elect him Sachem;” and his lordship was pleased to call me Pocahontas.
I did not see our other relative, Bishop Tusher’s lady, of whom so much is said in my papa’s memoirs–although my mamma went to visit her in the country. I have no pride (as I showed by complying with my mother’s request, and marrying a gentleman who was but the younger son of a Suffolk Baronet), yet I own to A DECENT RESPECT for my name, and wonder how one who ever bore it, should change it for that of Mrs. THOMAS TUSHER. I pass over as odious and unworthy of credit those reports (which I heard in Europe and was then too young to understand), how this person, having LEFT HER FAMILY and fled to Paris, out of jealousy of the Pretender betrayed his secrets to my Lord Stair, King George’s Ambassador, and nearly caused the Prince’s death there; how she came to England and married this Mr. Tusher, and became a great favorite of King George the Second, by whom Mr. Tusher was made a Dean, and then a Bishop. I did not see the lady, who chose to remain AT HER PALACE all the time we were in London; but after visiting her, my poor mamma said she had lost all her good looks, and warned me not to set too much store by any such gifts which nature had bestowed upon me. She grew exceedingly stout; and I remember my brother’s wife, Lady Castlewood, saying–“No wonder she became a favorite, for the King likes them old and ugly, as his father did before him.” On which papa said–“All women were alike; that there was never one so beautiful as that one; and that we could forgive her everything but her beauty.” And hereupon my mamma looked vexed, and my Lord Castlewood began to laugh; and I, of course, being a young creature, could not understand what was the subject of their conversation.
After the circumstances narrated in the third book of these Memoirs, my father and mother both went abroad, being advised by their friends to leave the country in consequence of the transactions which are recounted at the close of the volume of the Memoirs. But my brother, hearing how the FUTURE BISHOP’S LADY had quitted Castlewood and joined the Pretender at Paris, pursued him, and would have killed him, Prince as he was, had not the Prince managed to make his escape. On his expedition to Scotland directly after, Castlewood was so enraged against him that he asked leave to serve as a volunteer, and join the Duke of Argyle’s army in Scotland, which the Pretender never had the courage to face; and thenceforth my Lord was quite reconciled to the present reigning family, from whom he hath even received promotion.
Mrs. Tusher was by this time as angry against the Pretender as any of her relations could be, and used to boast, as I have heard, that she not only brought back my Lord to the Church of England, but procured the English peerage for him, which the JUNIOR BRANCH of our family at present enjoys. She was a great friend of Sir Robert Walpole, and would not rest until her husband slept at Lambeth, my papa used laughing to say. However, the Bishop died of apoplexy suddenly, and his wife erected a great monument over him; and the pair sleep under that stone, with a canopy of marble clouds and angels above them–the first Mrs. Tusher lying sixty miles off at Castlewood.
But my papa’s genius and education are both greater than any a woman can be expected to have, and his adventures in Europe far more exciting than his life in this country, which was passed in the tranquil offices of love and duty; and I shall say no more by way of introduction to his Memoirs, nor keep my children from the perusal of a story which is much more interesting than that of their affectionate old mother,
RACHEL ESMOND WARRINGTON.
November 3, 1778.
THE EARLY YOUTH OF HENRY ESMOND, UP TO THE TIME OF HIS LEAVING TRINITY COLLEGE, IN CAMBRIDGE.
I. An Account of the Family of Esmond of Castlewood Hall
II. Relates how Francis, Fourth Viscount, arrives at Castlewood
III. Whither, in the time of Thomas, Third Viscount, I had preceded him as Page to Isabella
IV. I am placed under a Popish Priest and bred to that Religion.– Viscountess Castlewood
V. My Superiors are engaged in Plots for the Restoration of King James II
VI. The Issue of the Plots.–The Death of Thomas, Third Viscount of Castlewood; and the Imprisonment of his Viscountess
VII. I am left at Castlewood an Orphan, and find most kind Protectors there
VIII. After Good Fortune comes Evil
IX. I have the Small-pox, and prepare to leave Castlewood
X. I go to Cambridge, and do but little Good there
XI. I come home for a Holiday to Castlewood, and find a Skeleton in the House
XII. My Lord Mohun comes among us for no Good
XIII. My Lord leaves us and his Evil behind him
XIV. We ride after him to London
CONTAINS MR. ESMOND’S MILITARY LIFE, AND OTHER MATTERS APPERTAINING TO THE ESMOND FAMILY.
I. I am in Prison, and Visited, but not Consoled there
II. I come to the End of my Captivity, but not of my Trouble
III. I take the Queen’s Pay in Quin’s Regiment
V. I go on the Vigo Bay Expedition, taste Salt Water and smell Powder
VI. The 29th December
VII. I am made Welcome at Walcote
VIII. Family Talk
IX. I make the Campaign of 1704
X. An Old Story about a Fool and a Woman
XI. The famous Mr. Joseph Addison
XII. I get a Company in the Campaign of 1706
XIII. I meet an Old Acquaintance in Flanders, and find my Mother’s Grave and my own Cradle there
XIV. The Campaign of 1707, 1708
XV. General Webb wins the Battle of Wynendael
CONTAINING THE END OF MR. ESMOND’S ADVENTURES IN ENGLAND.
I. I come to an End of my Battles and Bruises
II. I go Home, and harp on the Old String
III. A Paper out of the “Spectator”
IV. Beatrix’s New Suitor
V. Mohun appears for the Last Time in this History
VI. Poor Beatrix
VII. I visit Castlewood once more
VIII. I travel to France and bring Home a Portrait of Rigaud
IX. The Original of the Portrait comes to England
X. We entertain a very Distinguished Guest at Kensington
XI. Our Guest quits us as not being Hospitable enough
XII. A great Scheme, and who Balked it
XIII. August 1st, 1714
THE HISTORY OF HENRY ESMOND.
THE EARLY YOUTH OF HENRY ESMOND, UP TO THE TIME OF HIS LEAVING TRINITY COLLEGE, IN CAMBRIDGE.
The actors in the old tragedies, as we read, piped their iambics to a tune, speaking from under a mask, and wearing stilts and a great head-dress. ‘Twas thought the dignity of the Tragic Muse required these appurtenances, and that she was not to move except to a measure and cadence. So Queen Medea slew her children to a slow music: and King Agamemnon perished in a dying fall (to use Mr. Dryden’s words): the Chorus standing by in a set attitude, and rhythmically and decorously bewailing the fates of those great crowned persons. The Muse of History hath encumbered herself with ceremony as well as her Sister of the Theatre. She too wears the mask and the cothurnus, and speaks to measure. She too, in our age, busies herself with the affairs only of kings; waiting on them obsequiously and stately, as if she were but a mistress of court ceremonies, and had nothing to do with the registering of the affairs of the common people. I have seen in his very old age and decrepitude the old French King Lewis the Fourteenth, the type and model of kinghood–who never moved but to measure, who lived and died according to the laws of his Court-marshal, persisting in enacting through life the part of Hero; and, divested of poetry, this was but a little wrinkled old man, pock-marked, and with a great periwig and red heels to make him look tall–a hero for a book if you like, or for a brass statue or a painted ceiling, a god in a Roman shape, but what more than a man for Madame Maintenon, or the barber who shaved him, or Monsieur Fagon, his surgeon? I wonder shall History ever pull off her periwig and cease to be court-ridden? Shall we see something of France and England besides Versailles and Windsor? I saw Queen Anne at the latter place tearing down the Park slopes, after her stag-hounds, and driving her one-horse chaise–a hot, red-faced woman, not in the least resembling that statue of her which turns its stone back upon St. Paul’s, and faces the coaches struggling up Ludgate Hill. She was neither better bred nor wiser than you and me, though we knelt to hand her a letter or a wash-hand basin. Why shall History go on kneeling to the end of time? I am for having her rise up off her knees, and take a natural posture: not to be for ever performing cringes and congees like a court-chamberlain, and shuffling backwards out of doors in the presence of the sovereign. In a word, I would have History familiar rather than heroic: and think that Mr. Hogarth and Mr. Fielding will give our children a much better idea of the manners of the present age in England, than the Court Gazette and the newspapers which we get thence.
There was a German officer of Webb’s, with whom we used to joke, and of whom a story (whereof I myself was the author) was got to be believed in the army, that he was eldest son of the hereditary Grand Bootjack of the Empire, and the heir to that honor of which his ancestors had been very proud, having been kicked for twenty generations by one imperial foot, as they drew the boot from the other. I have heard that the old Lord Castlewood, of part of whose family these present volumes are a chronicle, though he came of quite as good blood as the Stuarts whom he served (and who as regards mere lineage are no better than a dozen English and Scottish houses I could name), was prouder of his post about the Court than of his ancestral honors, and valued his dignity (as Lord of the Butteries and Groom of the King’s Posset) so highly, that he cheerfully ruined himself for the thankless and thriftless race who bestowed it. He pawned his plate for King Charles the First, mortgaged his property for the same cause, and lost the greater part of it by fines and sequestration: stood a siege of his castle by Ireton, where his brother Thomas capitulated (afterward making terms with the Commonwealth, for which the elder brother never forgave him), and where his second brother Edward, who had embraced the ecclesiastical profession, was slain on Castlewood Tower, being engaged there both as preacher and artilleryman. This resolute old loyalist, who was with the King whilst his house was thus being battered down, escaped abroad with his only son, then a boy, to return and take a part in Worcester fight. On that fatal field Eustace Esmond was killed, and Castlewood fled from it once more into exile, and henceforward, and after the Restoration, never was away from the Court of the monarch (for whose return we offer thanks in the Prayer-Book) who sold his country and who took bribes of the French king.
What spectacle is more august than that of a great king in exile? Who is more worthy of respect than a brave man in misfortune? Mr. Addison has painted such a figure in his noble piece of Cato. But suppose fugitive Cato fuddling himself at a tavern with a wench on each knee, a dozen faithful and tipsy companions of defeat, and a landlord calling out for his bill; and the dignity of misfortune is straightway lost. The Historical Muse turns away shamefaced from the vulgar scene, and closes the door–on which the exile’s unpaid drink is scored up–upon him and his pots and his pipes, and the tavern-chorus which he and his friends are singing. Such a man as Charles should have had an Ostade or Mieris to paint him. Your Knellers and Le Bruns only deal in clumsy and impossible allegories: and it hath always seemed to me blasphemy to claim Olympus for such a wine-drabbled divinity as that.
About the King’s follower, the Viscount Castlewood–orphan of his son, ruined by his fidelity, bearing many wounds and marks of bravery, old and in exile–his kinsmen I suppose should be silent; nor if this patriarch fell down in his cups, call fie upon him, and fetch passers-by to laugh at his red face and white hairs. What! does a stream rush out of a mountain free and pure, to roll through fair pastures, to feed and throw out bright tributaries, and to end in a village gutter? Lives that have noble commencements have often no better endings; it is not without a kind of awe and reverence that an observer should speculate upon such careers as he traces the course of them. I have seen too much of success in life to take off my hat and huzzah to it as it passes in its gilt coach: and would do my little part with my neighbors on foot, that they should not gape with too much wonder, nor applaud too loudly. Is it the Lord Mayor going in state to mince-pies and the Mansion House? Is it poor Jack of Newgate’s procession, with the sheriff and javelin-men, conducting him on his last journey to Tyburn? I look into my heart and think that I sin as good as my Lord Mayor, and know I am as bad as Tyburn Jack. Give me a chain and red gown and a pudding before me, and I could play the part of Alderman very well, and sentence Jack after dinner. Starve me, keep me from books and honest people, educate me to love dice, gin, and pleasure, and put me on Hounslow Heath, with a purse before me, and I will take it. “And I shall be deservedly hanged,” say you, wishing to put an end to this prosing. I don’t say No. I can’t but accept the world as I find it, including a rope’s end, as long as it is in fashion.
AN ACCOUNT OF THE FAMILY OF ESMOND OF CASTLEWOOD HALL.
When Francis, fourth Viscount Castlewood, came to his title, and presently after to take possession of his house of Castlewood, county Hants, in the year 1691, almost the only tenant of the place besides the domestics was a lad of twelve years of age, of whom no one seemed to take any note until my Lady Viscountess lighted upon him, going over the house with the housekeeper on the day of her arrival. The boy was in the room known as the Book-room, or Yellow Gallery, where the portraits of the family used to hang, that fine piece among others of Sir Antonio Van Dyck of George, second Viscount, and that by Mr. Dobson of my lord the third Viscount, just deceased, which it seems his lady and widow did not think fit to carry away, when she sent for and carried off to her house at Chelsey, near to London, the picture of herself by Sir Peter Lely, in which her ladyship was represented as a huntress of Diana’s court.
The new and fair lady of Castlewood found the sad, lonely, little occupant of this gallery busy over his great book, which he laid down when he was aware that a stranger was at hand. And, knowing who that person must be, the lad stood up and bowed before her, performing a shy obeisance to the mistress of his house.
She stretched out her hand–indeed when was it that that hand would not stretch out to do an act of kindness, or to protect grief and ill-fortune? “And this is our kinsman,” she said “and what is your name, kinsman?”
“My name is Henry Esmond,” said the lad, looking up at her in a sort of delight and wonder, for she had come upon him as a Dea certe, and appeared the most charming object he had ever looked on. Her golden hair was shining in the gold of the sun; her complexion was of a dazzling bloom; her lips smiling, and her eyes beaming with a kindness which made Harry Esmond’s heart to beat with surprise.
“His name is Henry Esmond, sure enough, my lady,” says Mrs. Worksop, the housekeeper (an old tyrant whom Henry Esmond plagued more than he hated), and the old gentlewoman looked significantly towards the late lord’s picture, as it now is in the family, noble and severe-looking, with his hand on his sword, and his order on his cloak, which he had from the Emperor during the war on the Danube against the Turk.
Seeing the great and undeniable likeness between this portrait and the lad, the new Viscountess, who had still hold of the boy’s hand as she looked at the picture, blushed and dropped the hand quickly, and walked down the gallery, followed by Mrs. Worksop.
When the lady came back, Harry Esmond stood exactly in the same spot, and with his hand as it had fallen when he dropped it on his black coat.
Her heart melted, I suppose (indeed she hath since owned as much), at the notion that she should do anything unkind to any mortal, great or small; for, when she returned, she had sent away the housekeeper upon an errand by the door at the farther end of the gallery; and, coming back to the lad, with a look of infinite pity and tenderness in her eyes, she took his hand again, placing her other fair hand on his head, and saying some words to him, which were so kind, and said in a voice so sweet, that the boy, who had never looked upon so much beauty before, felt as if the touch of a superior being or angel smote him down to the ground, and kissed the fair protecting hand as he knelt on one knee. To the very last hour of his life, Esmond remembered the lady as she then spoke and looked, the rings on her fair hands, the very scent of her robe, the beam of her eyes lighting up with surprise and kindness, her lips blooming in a smile, the sun making a golden halo round her hair.
As the boy was yet in this attitude of humility, enters behind him a portly gentleman, with a little girl of four years old in his hand. The gentleman burst into a great laugh at the lady and her adorer, with his little queer figure, his sallow face, and long black hair. The lady blushed, and seemed to deprecate his ridicule by a look of appeal to her husband, for it was my Lord Viscount who now arrived, and whom the lad knew, having once before seen him in the late lord’s lifetime.
“So this is the little priest” says my lord, looking down at the lad; “welcome, kinsman.”
“He is saying his prayers to mamma,” says the little girl, who came up to her papa’s knees; and my lord burst out into another great laugh at this, and kinsman Henry looked very silly. He invented a half-dozen of speeches in reply, but ’twas months afterwards when he thought of this adventure: as it was, he had never a word in answer.
“Le pauvre enfant, il n’a que nous,” says the lady, looking to her lord; and the boy, who understood her, though doubtless she thought otherwise, thanked her with all his heart for her kind speech.
“And he shan’t want for friends here,” says my lord in a kind voice, “shall he, little Trix?”
The little girl, whose name was Beatrix, and whom her papa called by this diminutive, looked at Henry Esmond solemnly, with a pair of large eyes, and then a smile shone over her face, which was as beautiful as that of a cherub, and she came up and put out a little hand to him. A keen and delightful pang of gratitude, happiness, affection, filled the orphan child’s heart, as he received from the protectors, whom heaven had sent to him, these touching words and tokens of friendliness and kindness. But an hour since, he had felt quite alone in the world: when he heard the great peal of bells from Castlewood church ringing that morning to welcome the arrival of the new lord and lady, it had rung only terror and anxiety to him, for he knew not how the new owner would deal with him; and those to whom he formerly looked for protection were forgotten or dead. Pride and doubt too had kept him within-doors, when the Vicar and the people of the village, and the servants of the house, had gone out to welcome my Lord Castlewood–for Henry Esmond was no servant, though a dependant; no relative, though he bore the name and inherited the blood of the house; and in the midst of the noise and acclamations attending the arrival of the new lord (for whom, you may be sure, a feast was got ready, and guns were fired, and tenants and domestics huzzahed when his carriage approached and rolled into the court-yard of the hall), no one ever took any notice of young Henry Esmond, who sat unobserved and alone in the Book-room, until the afternoon of that day, when his new friends found him.
When my lord and lady were going away thence, the little girl, still holding her kinsman by the hand, bade him to come too. “Thou wilt always forsake an old friend for a new one, Trix,” says her father to her good-naturedly; and went into the gallery, giving an arm to his lady. They passed thence through the music-gallery, long since dismantled, and Queen Elizabeth’s Rooms, in the clock- tower, and out into the terrace, where was a fine prospect of sunset and the great darkling woods with a cloud of rooks returning; and the plain and river with Castlewood village beyond, and purple hills beautiful to look at–and the little heir of Castlewood, a child of two years old, was already here on the terrace in his nurse’s arms, from whom he ran across the grass instantly he perceived his mother, and came to her.
“If thou canst not be happy here,” says my lord, looking round at the scene, “thou art hard to please, Rachel.”
“I am happy where you are,” she said, “but we were happiest of all at Walcote Forest.” Then my lord began to describe what was before them to his wife, and what indeed little Harry knew better than he– viz., the history of the house: how by yonder gate the page ran away with the heiress of Castlewood, by which the estate came into the present family; how the Roundheads attacked the clock-tower, which my lord’s father was slain in defending. “I was but two years old then,” says he, “but take forty-six from ninety, and how old shall I be, kinsman Harry?”
“Thirty,” says his wife, with a laugh.
“A great deal too old for you, Rachel,” answers my lord, looking fondly down at her. Indeed she seemed to be a girl, and was at that time scarce twenty years old.
“You know, Frank, I will do anything to please you,” says she, “and I promise you I will grow older every day.”
“You mustn’t call papa, Frank; you must call papa my lord now,” says Miss Beatrix, with a toss of her little head; at which the mother smiled, and the good-natured father laughed, and the little trotting boy laughed, not knowing why–but because he was happy, no doubt–as every one seemed to be there. How those trivial incidents and words, the landscape and sunshine, and the group of people smiling and talking, remain fixed on the memory!
As the sun was setting, the little heir was sent in the arms of his nurse to bed, whither he went howling; but little Trix was promised to sit to supper that night–“and you will come too, kinsman, won’t you?” she said.
Harry Esmond blushed: “I–I have supper with Mrs. Worksop,” says he.
“D–n it,” says my lord, “thou shalt sup with us, Harry, to-night! Shan’t refuse a lady, shall he, Trix?”–and they all wondered at Harry’s performance as a trencher-man, in which character the poor boy acquitted himself very remarkably; for the truth is he had had no dinner, nobody thinking of him in the bustle which the house was in, during the preparations antecedent to the new lord’s arrival.
“No dinner! poor dear child!” says my lady, heaping up his plate with meat, and my lord, filling a bumper for him, bade him call a health; on which Master Harry, crying “The King,” tossed off the wine. My lord was ready to drink that, and most other toasts: indeed only too ready. He would not hear of Doctor Tusher (the Vicar of Castlewood, who came to supper) going away when the sweetmeats were brought: he had not had a chaplain long enough, he said, to be tired of him: so his reverence kept my lord company for some hours over a pipe and a punch-bowl; and went away home with rather a reeling gait, and declaring a dozen of times, that his lordship’s affability surpassed every kindness he had ever had from his lordship’s gracious family.
As for young Esmond, when he got to his little chamber, it was with a heart full of surprise and gratitude towards the new friends whom this happy day had brought him. He was up and watching long before the house was astir, longing to see that fair lady and her children–that kind protector and patron: and only fearful lest their welcome of the past night should in any way be withdrawn or altered. But presently little Beatrix came out into the garden, and her mother followed, who greeted Harry as kindly as before. He told her at greater length the histories of the house (which he had been taught in the old lord’s time), and to which she listened with great interest; and then he told her, with respect to the night before, that he understood French, and thanked her for her protection.
“Do you?” says she, with a blush; “then, sir, you shall teach me and Beatrix.” And she asked him many more questions regarding himself, which had best be told more fully and explicitly than in those brief replies which the lad made to his mistress’s questions.
RELATES HOW FRANCIS, FOURTH VISCOUNT, ARRIVES AT CASTLEWOOD.
‘Tis known that the name of Esmond and the estate of Castlewood, com. Hants, came into possession of the present family through Dorothea, daughter and heiress of Edward, Earl and Marquis Esmond, and Lord of Castlewood, which lady married, 23 Eliz., Henry Poyns, gent.; the said Henry being then a page in the household of her father. Francis, son and heir of the above Henry and Dorothea, who took the maternal name which the family hath borne subsequently, was made Knight and Baronet by King James the First; and being of a military disposition, remained long in Germany with the Elector- Palatine, in whose service Sir Francis incurred both expense and danger, lending large sums of money to that unfortunate Prince; and receiving many wounds in the battles against the Imperialists, in which Sir Francis engaged.
On his return home Sir Francis was rewarded for his services and many sacrifices, by his late Majesty James the First, who graciously conferred upon this tried servant the post of Warden of the Butteries and Groom of the King’s Posset, which high and confidential office he filled in that king’s and his unhappy successor’s reign.
His age, and many wounds and infirmities, obliged Sir Francis to perform much of his duty by deputy: and his son, Sir George Esmond, knight and banneret, first as his father’s lieutenant, and afterwards as inheritor of his father’s title and dignity, performed this office during almost the whole of the reign of King Charles the First, and his two sons who succeeded him.
Sir George Esmond married, rather beneath the rank that a person of his name and honor might aspire to, the daughter of Thos. Topham, of the city of London, alderman and goldsmith, who, taking the Parliamentary side in the troubles then commencing, disappointed Sir George of the property which he expected at the demise of his father-in-law, who devised his money to his second daughter, Barbara, a spinster.
Sir George Esmond, on his part, was conspicuous for his attachment and loyalty to the Royal cause and person: and the King being at Oxford in 1642, Sir George, with the consent of his father, then very aged and infirm, and residing at his house of Castlewood, melted the whole of the family plate for his Majesty’s service.
For this, and other sacrifices and merits, his Majesty, by patent under the Privy Seal, dated Oxford, Jan., 1643, was pleased to advance Sir Francis Esmond to the dignity of Viscount Castlewood, of Shandon, in Ireland: and the Viscount’s estate being much impoverished by loans to the King, which in those troublesome times his Majesty could not repay, a grant of land in the plantations of Virginia was given to the Lord Viscount.; part of which land is in possession of descendants of his family to the present day.
The first Viscount Castlewood died full of years, and within a few months after he had been advanced to his honors. He was succeeded by his eldest son, the before-named George; and left issue besides, Thomas, a colonel in the King’s army, who afterwards joined the Usurper’s Government; and Francis, in holy orders, who was slain whilst defending the House of Castlewood against the Parliament, anno 1647.
George Lord Castlewood (the second Viscount), of King Charles the First’s time, had no male issue save his one son, Eustace Esmond, who was killed, with half of the Castlewood men beside him, at Worcester fight. The lands about Castlewood were sold and apportioned to the Commonwealth men; Castlewood being concerned in almost all of the plots against the Protector, after the death of the King, and up to King Charles the Second’s restoration. My lord followed that king’s Court about in its exile, having ruined himself in its service. He had but one daughter, who was of no great comfort to her father; for misfortune had not taught those exiles sobriety of life; and it is said that the Duke of York and his brother the King both quarrelled about Isabel Esmond. She was maid of honor to the Queen Henrietta Maria; she early joined the Roman Church; her father, a weak man, following her not long after at Breda.
On the death of Eustace Esmond at Worcester, Thomas Esmond, nephew to my Lord Castlewood, and then a stripling, became heir to the title. His father had taken the Parliament side in the quarrels, and so had been estranged from the chief of his house; and my Lord Castlewood was at first so much enraged to think that his title (albeit little more than an empty one now) should pass to a rascally Roundhead, that he would have married again, and indeed proposed to do so to a vintner’s daughter at Bruges, to whom his lordship owed a score for lodging when the King was there, but for fear of the laughter of the Court, and the anger of his daughter, of whom he stood in awe; for she was in temper as imperious and violent as my lord, who was much enfeebled by wounds and drinking, was weak.
Lord Castlewood would have had a match between his daughter Isabel and her cousin, the son of that Francis Esmond who was killed at Castlewood siege. And the lady, it was said, took a fancy to the young man, who was her junior by several years (which circumstance she did not consider to be a fault in him); but having paid his court, and being admitted to the intimacy of the house, he suddenly flung up his suit, when it seemed to be pretty prosperous, without giving a pretext for his behavior. His friends rallied him at what they laughingly chose to call his infidelity; Jack Churchill, Frank Esmond’s lieutenant in the Royal Regiment of Foot-guards, getting the company which Esmond vacated, when he left the Court and went to Tangier in a rage at discovering that his promotion depended on the complaisance of his elderly affianced bride. He and Churchill, who had been condiscipuli at St. Paul’s School, had words about this matter; and Frank Esmond said to him with an oath, “Jack, your sister may be so-and-so, but by Jove my wife shan’t!” and swords were drawn, and blood drawn too, until friends separated them on this quarrel. Few men were so jealous about the point of honor in those days; and gentlemen of good birth and lineage thought a royal blot was an ornament to their family coat. Frank Esmond retired in the sulks, first to Tangier, whence he returned after two years’ service, settling on a small property he had of his mother, near to Winchester, and became a country gentleman, and kept a pack of beagles, and never came to Court again in King Charles’s time. But his uncle Castlewood was never reconciled to him; nor, for some time afterwards, his cousin whom he had refused.
By places, pensions, bounties from France, and gifts from the King, whilst his daughter was in favor, Lord Castlewood, who had spent in the Royal service his youth and fortune, did not retrieve the latter quite, and never cared to visit Castlewood, or repair it, since the death of his son, but managed to keep a good house, and figure at Court, and to save a considerable sum of ready money.
And now, his heir and nephew, Thomas Esmond, began to bid for his uncle’s favor. Thomas had served with the Emperor, and with the Dutch, when King Charles was compelled to lend troops to the States; and against them, when his Majesty made an alliance with the French King. In these campaigns Thomas Esmond was more remarked for duelling, brawling, vice, and play, than for any conspicuous gallantry in the field, and came back to England, like many another English gentleman who has travelled, with a character by no means improved by his foreign experience. He had dissipated his small paternal inheritance of a younger brother’s portion, and, as truth must be told, was no better than a hanger-on of ordinaries, and a brawler about Alsatia and the Friars, when he bethought him of a means of mending his fortune.
His cousin was now of more than middle age, and had nobody’s word but her own for the beauty which she said she once possessed. She was lean, and yellow, and long in the tooth; all the red and white in all the toy-shops in London could not make a beauty of her–Mr. Killigrew called her the Sybil, the death’s-head put up at the King’s feast as a memento mori, &c.–in fine, a woman who might be easy of conquest, but whom only a very bold man would think of conquering. This bold man was Thomas Esmond. He had a fancy to my Lord Castlewood’s savings, the amount of which rumor had very much exaggerated. Madame Isabel was said to have Royal jewels of great value; whereas poor Tom Esmond’s last coat but one was in pawn.
My lord had at this time a fine house in Lincoln’s-Inn-Fields, nigh to the Duke’s Theatre and the Portugal ambassador’s chapel. Tom Esmond, who had frequented the one as long as he had money to spend among the actresses, now came to the church as assiduously. He looked so lean and shabby, that he passed without difficulty for a repentant sinner; and so, becoming converted, you may be sure took his uncle’s priest for a director.
This charitable father reconciled him with the old lord, his uncle, who a short time before would not speak to him, as Tom passed under my lord’s coach window, his lordship going in state to his place at Court, while his nephew slunk by with his battered hat and feather, and the point of his rapier sticking out of the scabbard–to his twopenny ordinary in Bell Yard.
Thomas Esmond, after this reconciliation with his uncle, very soon began to grow sleek, and to show signs of the benefits of good living and clean linen. He fasted rigorously twice a week, to be sure; but he made amends on the other days: and, to show how great his appetite was, Mr. Wycherley said, he ended by swallowing that fly-blown rank old morsel his cousin. There were endless jokes and lampoons about this marriage at Court: but Tom rode thither in his uncle’s coach now, called him father, and having won could afford to laugh. This marriage took place very shortly before King Charles died: whom the Viscount of Castlewood speedily followed.
The issue of this marriage was one son, whom the parents watched with an intense eagerness and care; but who, in spite of nurses and physicians, had only a brief existence. His tainted blood did not run very long in his poor feeble little body. Symptoms of evil broke out early on him; and, part from flattery, part superstition, nothing would satisfy my lord and lady, especially the latter, but having the poor little cripple touched by his Majesty at his church. They were ready to cry out miracle at first (the doctors and quack-salvers being constantly in attendance on the child, and experimenting on his poor little body with every conceivable nostrum) but though there seemed, from some reason, a notable amelioration in the infant’s health after his Majesty touched him, in a few weeks afterward the poor thing died–causing the lampooners of the Court to say, that the King, in expelling evil out of the infant of Tom Esmond and Isabella his wife, expelled the life out of it, which was nothing but corruption.
The mother’s natural pang at losing this poor little child must have been increased when she thought of her rival Frank Esmond’s wife, who was a favorite of the whole Court, where my poor Lady Castlewood was neglected, and who had one child, a daughter, flourishing and beautiful, and was about to become a mother once more.
The Court, as I have heard, only laughed the more because the poor lady, who had pretty well passed the age when ladies are accustomed to have children, nevertheless determined not to give hope up, and even when she came to live at Castlewood, was constantly sending over to Hexton for the doctor, and announcing to her friends the arrival of an heir. This absurdity of hers was one amongst many others which the wags used to play upon. Indeed, to the last days of her life, my Lady Viscountess had the comfort of fancying herself beautiful, and persisted in blooming up to the very midst of winter, painting roses on her cheeks long after their natural season, and attiring herself like summer though her head was covered with snow.
Gentlemen who were about the Court of King Charles, and King James, have told the present writer a number of stories about this queer old lady, with which it’s not necessary that posterity should be entertained. She is said to have had great powers of invective and, if she fought with all her rivals in King James’s favor, ’tis certain she must have had a vast number of quarrels on her hands. She was a woman of an intrepid spirit, and, it appears, pursued and rather fatigued his Majesty with her rights and her wrongs. Some say that the cause of her leaving Court was jealousy of Frank Esmond’s wife: others, that she was forced to retreat after a great battle which took place at Whitehall, between her ladyship and Lady Dorchester, Tom Killigrew’s daughter, whom the King delighted to honor, and in which that ill-favored Esther got the better of our elderly Vashti. But her ladyship, for her part, always averred that it was her husband’s quarrel, and not her own, which occasioned the banishment of the two into the country; and the cruel ingratitude of the Sovereign in giving away, out of the family, that place of Warden of the Butteries and Groom of the King’s Posset, which the two last Lords Castlewood had held so honorably, and which was now conferred upon a fellow of yesterday, and a hanger-on of that odious Dorchester creature, my Lord Bergamot;* “I never,” said my lady, could have come to see his Majesty’s posset carried by any other hand than an Esmond. I should have dashed the salver out of Lord Bergamot’s hand, had I met him.” And those who knew her ladyship are aware that she was a person quite capable of performing this feat, had she not wisely kept out of the way.
* Lionel Tipton, created Baron Bergamot, ann. 1686, Gentleman Usher of the Back Stairs, and afterwards appointed Warden of the Butteries and Groom of the King’s Posset (on the decease of George, second Viscount Castlewood), accompanied his Majesty to St. Germain’s, where he died without issue. No Groom of the Posset was appointed by the Prince of Orange, nor hath there been such an officer in any succeeding reign.
Holding the purse-strings in her own control, to which, indeed, she liked to bring most persons who came near her, Lady Castlewood could command her husband’s obedience, and so broke up her establishment at London; she had removed from Lincoln’s-Inn-Fields to Chelsey, to a pretty new house she bought there; and brought her establishment, her maids, lap-dogs, and gentlewomen, her priest, and his lordship her husband, to Castlewood Hall, that she had never seen since she quitted it as a child with her father during the troubles of King Charles the First’s reign. The walls were still open in the old house as they had been left by the shot of the Commonwealthmen. A part of the mansion was restored and furbished up with the plate, hangings, and furniture brought from the house in London. My lady meant to have a triumphal entry into Castlewood village, and expected the people to cheer as she drove over the Green in her great coach, my lord beside her, her gentlewomen, lap-dogs, and cockatoos on the opposite seat, six horses to her carriage, and servants armed and mounted following it and preceding it. But ’twas in the height of the No-Popery cry; the folks in the village and the neighboring town were scared by the sight of her ladyship’s painted face and eyelids, as she bobbed her head out of the coach window, meaning, no doubt, to be very gracious; and one old woman said, “Lady Isabel! lord-a-mercy, it’s Lady Jezebel!” a name by which the enemies of the right honorable Viscountess were afterwards in the habit of designating her. The country was then in a great No-Popery fervor; her ladyship’s known conversion, and her husband’s, the priest in her train, and the service performed at the chapel of Castlewood (though the chapel had been built for that worship before any other was heard of in the country, and though the service was performed in the most quiet manner), got her no favor at first in the county or village. By far the greater part of the estate of Castlewood had been confiscated, and been parcelled out to Commonwealthmen. One or two of these old Cromwellian soldiers were still alive in the village, and looked grimly at first upon my Lady Viscountess, when she came to dwell there.
She appeared at the Hexton Assembly, bringing her lord after her, scaring the country folks with the splendor of her diamonds, which she always wore in public. They said she wore them in private, too, and slept with them round her neck; though the writer can pledge his word that this was a calumny. “If she were to take them off,” my Lady Sark said, “Tom Esmond, her husband, would run away with them and pawn them.” ‘Twas another calumny. My Lady Sark was also an exile from Court, and there had been war between the two ladies before.
The village people began to be reconciled presently to their lady, who was generous and kind, though fantastic and haughty, in her ways; and whose praises Dr. Tusher, the Vicar, sounded loudly amongst his flock. As for my lord, he gave no great trouble, being considered scarce more than an appendage to my lady, who, as daughter of the old lords of Castlewood, and possessor of vast wealth, as the country folks said (though indeed nine-tenths of it existed but in rumor), was looked upon as the real queen of the Castle, and mistress of all it contained.
WHITHER IN THE TIME OF THOMAS, THIRD VISCOUNT, I HAD PRECEDED HIM AS PAGE TO ISABELLA.
Coming up to London again some short time after this retreat, the Lord Castlewood despatched a retainer of his to a little Cottage in the village of Ealing, near to London, where for some time had dwelt an old French refugee, by name Mr. Pastoureau, one of those whom the persecution of the Huguenots by the French king had brought over to this country. With this old man lived a little lad, who went by the name of Henry Thomas. He remembered to have lived in another place a short time before, near to London too, amongst looms and spinning-wheels, and a great deal of psalm- singing and church-going, and a whole colony of Frenchmen.
There he had a dear, dear friend, who died, and whom he called Aunt. She used to visit him in his dreams sometimes; and her face, though it was homely, was a thousand times dearer to him than that of Mrs. Pastoureau, Bon Papa Pastoureau’s new wife, who came to live with him after aunt went away. And there, at Spittlefields, as it used to be called, lived Uncle George, who was a weaver too, but used to tell Harry that he was a little gentleman, and that his father was a captain, and his mother an angel.
When he said so, Bon Papa used to look up from the loom, where he was embroidering beautiful silk flowers, and say, “Angel! she belongs to the Babylonish scarlet woman.” Bon Papa was always talking of the scarlet woman. He had a little room where he always used to preach and sing hymns out of his great old nose. Little Harry did not like the preaching; he liked better the fine stories which aunt used to tell him. Bon Papa’s wife never told him pretty stories; she quarrelled with Uncle George, and he went away.
After this, Harry’s Bon Papa and his wife and two children of her own that she brought with her, came to live at Ealing. The new wife gave her children the best of everything, and Harry many a whipping, he knew not why. Besides blows, he got ill names from her, which need not be set down here, for the sake of old Mr. Pastoureau, who was still kind sometimes. The unhappiness of those days is long forgiven, though they cast a shade of melancholy over the child’s youth, which will accompany him, no doubt, to the end of his days: as those tender twigs are bent the trees grow afterward; and he, at least, who has suffered as a child, and is not quite perverted in that early school of unhappiness, learns to be gentle and long-suffering with little children.
Harry was very glad when a gentleman dressed in black, on horseback, with a mounted servant behind him, came to fetch him away from Ealing. The noverca, or unjust stepmother, who had neglected him for her own two children, gave him supper enough the night before he went away, and plenty in the morning. She did not beat him once, and told the children to keep their hands off him. One was a girl, and Harry never could bear to strike a girl; and the other was a boy, whom he could easily have beat, but he always cried out, when Mrs. Pastoureau came sailing to the rescue with arms like a flail. She only washed Harry’s face the day he went away; nor ever so much as once boxed his ears. She whimpered rather when the gentleman in black came for the boy; and old Mr. Pastoureau, as he gave the child his blessing, scowled over his shoulder at the strange gentleman, and grumbled out something about Babylon and the scarlet lady. He was grown quite old, like a child almost. Mrs. Pastoureau used to wipe his nose as she did to the children. She was a great, big, handsome young woman; but, though she pretended to cry, Harry thought ’twas only a sham, and sprung quite delighted upon the horse upon which the lackey helped him.
He was a Frenchman; his name was Blaise. The child could talk to him in his own language perfectly well: he knew it better than English indeed, having lived hitherto chiefly among French people: and being called the Little Frenchman by other boys on Ealing Green. He soon learnt to speak English perfectly, and to forget some of his French: children forget easily. Some earlier and fainter recollections the child had of a different country; and a town with tall white houses: and a ship. But these were quite indistinct in the boy’s mind, as indeed the memory of Ealing soon became, at least of much that he suffered there.
The lackey before whom he rode was very lively and voluble, and informed the boy that the gentleman riding before him was my lord’s chaplain, Father Holt–that he was now to be called Master Harry Esmond–that my Lord Viscount Castlewood was his parrain–that he was to live at the great house of Castlewood, in the province of —-shire, where he would see Madame the Viscountess, who was a grand lady. And so, seated on a cloth before Blaise’s saddle, Harry Esmond was brought to London, and to a fine square called Covent Garden, near to which his patron lodged.
Mr. Holt, the priest, took the child by the hand, and brought him to this nobleman, a grand languid nobleman in a great cap and flowered morning-gown, sucking oranges. He patted Harry on the head and gave him an orange.
“C’est bien ca,” he said to the priest after eying the child, and the gentleman in black shrugged his shoulders.
“Let Blaise take him out for a holiday,” and out for a holiday the boy and the valet went. Harry went jumping along; he was glad enough to go.
He will remember to his life’s end the delights of those days. He was taken to see a play by Monsieur Blaise, in a house a thousand times greater and finer than the booth at Ealing Fair–and on the next happy day they took water on the river, and Harry saw London Bridge, with the houses and booksellers’ shops thereon, looking like a street, and the Tower of London, with the Armor, and the great lions and bears in the moat–all under company of Monsieur Blaise.
Presently, of an early morning, all the party set forth for the country, namely, my Lord Viscount and the other gentleman; Monsieur Blaise and Harry on a pillion behind them, and two or three men with pistols leading the baggage-horses. And all along the road the Frenchman told little Harry stories of brigands, which made the child’s hair stand on end, and terrified him; so that at the great gloomy inn on the road where they lay, he besought to be allowed to sleep in a room with one of the servants, and was compassionated by Mr. Holt, the gentleman who travelled with my lord, and who gave the child a little bed in his chamber.
His artless talk and answers very likely inclined this gentleman in the boy’s favor, for next day Mr. Holt said Harry should ride behind him, and not with the French lacky; and all along the journey put a thousand questions to the child–as to his foster- brother and relations at Ealing; what his old grandfather had taught him; what languages he knew; whether he could read and write, and sing, and so forth. And Mr. Holt found that Harry could read and write, and possessed the two languages of French and English very well; and when he asked Harry about singing, the lad broke out with a hymn to the tune of Dr. Martin Luther, which set Mr. Holt a-laughing; and even caused his grand parrain in the laced hat and periwig to laugh too when Holt told him what the child was singing. For it appeared that Dr. Martin Luther’s hymns were not sung in the churches Mr. Holt preached at.
“You must never sing that song any more: do you hear, little mannikin?” says my Lord Viscount, holding up a finger.
“But we will try and teach you a better, Harry,” Mr. Holt said; and the child answered, for he was a docile child, and of an affectionate nature, “That he loved pretty songs, and would try and learn anything the gentleman would tell him.” That day he so pleased the gentlemen by his talk, that they had him to dine with them at the inn, and encouraged him in his prattle; and Monsieur Blaise, with whom he rode and dined the day before, waited upon him now.
“‘Tis well, ’tis well!” said Blaise, that night (in his own language) when they lay again at an inn. “We are a little lord here; we are a little lord now: we shall see what we are when we come to Castlewood, where my lady is.”
“When shall we come to Castlewood, Monsieur Blaise?” says Harry.
“Parbleu! my lord does not press himself,” Blaise says, with a grin; and, indeed, it seemed as if his lordship was not in a great hurry, for he spent three days on that journey which Harry Esmond hath often since ridden in a dozen hours. For the last two of the days Harry rode with the priest, who was so kind to him, that the child had grown to be quite fond and familiar with him by the journey’s end, and had scarce a thought in his little heart which by that time he had not confided to his new friend.
At length, on the third day, at evening, they came to a village standing on a green with elms round it, very pretty to look at; and the people there all took off their hats, and made curtsies to my Lord Viscount, who bowed to them all languidly; and there was one portly person that wore a cassock and a broad-leafed hat, who bowed lower than any one–and with this one both my lord and Mr. Holt had a few words. “This, Harry, is Castlewood church,” says Mr. Holt, “and this is the pillar thereof, learned Doctor Tusher. Take off your hat, sirrah, and salute Dr. Tusher!”
“Come up to supper, Doctor,” says my lord; at which the Doctor made another low bow, and the party moved on towards a grand house that was before them, with many gray towers and vanes on them, and windows flaming in the sunshine; and a great army of rooks, wheeling over their heads, made for the woods behind the house, as Harry saw; and Mr. Holt told him that they lived at Castlewood too.
They came to the house, and passed under an arch into a court-yard, with a fountain in the centre, where many men came and held my lord’s stirrup as he descended, and paid great respect to Mr. Holt likewise. And the child thought that the servants looked at him curiously, and smiled to one another–and he recalled what Blaise had said to him when they were in London, and Harry had spoken about his godpapa, when the Frenchman said, “Parbleu, one sees well that my lord is your godfather;” words whereof the poor lad did not know the meaning then, though he apprehended the truth in a very short time afterwards, and learned it, and thought of it with no small feeling of shame.
Taking Harry by the hand as soon as they were both descended from their horses, Mr. Holt led him across the court, and under a low door to rooms on a level with the ground; one of which Father Holt said was to be the boy’s chamber, the other on the other side of the passage being the Father’s own; and as soon as the little man’s face was washed, and the Father’s own dress arranged, Harry’s guide took him once more to the door by which my lord had entered the hall, and up a stair, and through an ante-room to my lady’s drawing-room–an apartment than which Harry thought he had never seen anything more grand–no, not in the Tower of London which he had just visited. Indeed, the chamber was richly ornamented in the manner of Queen Elizabeth’s time, with great stained windows at either end, and hangings of tapestry, which the sun shining through the colored glass painted of a thousand lines; and here in state, by the fire, sat a lady to whom the priest took up Harry, who was indeed amazed by her appearance.
My Lady Viscountess’s face was daubed with white and red up to the eyes, to which the paint gave an unearthly glare: she had a tower of lace on her head, under which was a bush of black curls– borrowed curls–so that no wonder little Harry Esmond was scared when he was first presented to her–the kind priest acting as master of the ceremonies at that solemn introduction–and he stared at her with eyes almost as great as her own, as he had stared at the player woman who acted the wicked tragedy-queen, when the players came down to Ealing Fair. She sat in a great chair by the fire-corner; in her lap was a spaniel-dog that barked furiously; on a little table by her was her ladyship’s snuff-box and her sugar- plum box. She wore a dress of black velvet, and a petticoat of flame-colored brocade. She had as many rings on her fingers as the old woman of Banbury Cross; and pretty small feet which she was fond of showing, with great gold clocks to her stockings, and white pantofles with red heels; and an odor of musk was shook out of her garments whenever she moved or quitted the room, leaning on her tortoise-shell stick, little Fury barking at her heels.
Mrs. Tusher, the parson’s wife, was with my lady. She had been waiting-woman to her ladyship in the late lord’s time, and, having her soul in that business, took naturally to it when the Viscountess of Castlewood returned to inhabit her father’s house.
“I present to your ladyship your kinsman and little page of honor, Master Henry Esmond,” Mr. Holt said, bowing lowly, with a sort of comical humility. “Make a pretty bow to my lady, Monsieur; and then another little bow, not so low, to Madame Tusher–the fair priestess of Castlewood.”
“Where I have lived and hope to die, sir,” says Madame Tusher, giving a hard glance at the brat, and then at my lady.
Upon her the boy’s whole attention was for a time directed. He could not keep his great eyes off from her. Since the Empress of Ealing, he had seen nothing so awful.
“Does my appearance please you, little page?” asked the lady.
“He would be very hard to please if it didn’t,” cried Madame Tusher.
“Have done, you silly Maria,” said Lady Castlewood.
“Where I’m attached, I’m attached, Madame–and I’d die rather than not say so.”
“Je meurs ou je m’attache,” Mr. Holt said with a polite grin. “The ivy says so in the picture, and clings to the oak like a fond parasite as it is.”
“Parricide, sir!” cries Mrs. Tusher.
“Hush, Tusher–you are always bickering with Father Holt,” cried my lady. “Come and kiss my hand, child;” and the oak held out a BRANCH to little Harry Esmond, who took and dutifully kissed the lean old hand, upon the gnarled knuckles of which there glittered a hundred rings.
“To kiss that hand would make many a pretty fellow happy!” cried Mrs. Tusher: on which my lady crying out, “Go, you foolish Tusher!” and tapping her with her great fan, Tusher ran forward to seize her hand and kiss it. Fury arose and barked furiously at Tusher; and Father Holt looked on at this queer scene, with arch, grave glances.
The awe exhibited by the little boy perhaps pleased the lady to whom this artless flattery was bestowed: for having gone down on his knee (as Father Holt had directed him, and the mode then was) and performed his obeisance, she said, “Page Esmond, my groom of the chamber will inform you what your duties are, when you wait upon my lord and me; and good Father Holt will instruct you as becomes a gentleman of our name. You will pay him obedience in everything, and I pray you may grow to be as learned and as good as your tutor.”
The lady seemed to have the greatest reverence for Mr. Holt, and to be more afraid of him than of anything else in the world. If she was ever so angry, a word or look from Father Holt made her calm: indeed he had a vast power of subjecting those who came near him; and, among the rest, his new pupil gave himself up with an entire confidence and attachment to the good Father, and became his willing slave almost from the first moment he saw him.
He put his small hand into the Father’s as he walked away from his first presentation to his mistress, and asked many questions in his artless childish way. “Who is that other woman?” he asked. “She is fat and round; she is more pretty than my Lady Castlewood.”
“She is Madame Tusher, the parson’s wife of Castlewood. She has a son of your age, but bigger than you.”
“Why does she like so to kiss my lady’s hand. It is not good to kiss.”
“Tastes are different, little man. Madame Tusher is attached to my lady, having been her waiting-woman before she was married, in the old lord’s time. She married Doctor Tusher the chaplain. The English household divines often marry the waiting-women.”
“You will not marry the French woman, will you? I saw her laughing with Blaise in the buttery.”
“I belong to a church that is older and better than the English church,” Mr. Holt said (making a sign whereof Esmond did not then understand the meaning, across his breast and forehead); “in our church the clergy do not marry. You will understand these things better soon.”
“Was not Saint Peter the head of your church?–Dr. Rabbits of Ealing told us so.”
The Father said, “Yes, he was.”
“But Saint Peter was married, for we heard only last Sunday that his wife’s mother lay sick of a fever.” On which the Father again laughed, and said he would understand this too better soon, and talked of other things, and took away Harry Esmond, and showed him the great old house which he had come to inhabit.
It stood on a rising green hill, with woods behind it, in which were rooks’ nests, where the birds at morning and returning home at evening made a great cawing. At the foot of the hill was a river, with a steep ancient bridge crossing it; and beyond that a large pleasant green flat, where the village of Castlewood stood, and stands, with the church in the midst, the parsonage hard by it, the inn with the blacksmith’s forge beside it, and the sign of the “Three Castles” on the elm. The London road stretched away towards the rising sun, and to the west were swelling hills and peaks, behind which many a time Harry Esmond saw the same sun setting, that he now looks on thousands of miles away across the great ocean–in a new Castlewood, by another stream, that bears, like the new country of wandering AEneas, the fond names of the land of his youth.
The Hall of Castlewood was built with two courts, whereof one only, the fountain-court, was now inhabited, the other having been battered down in the Cromwellian wars. In the fountain-court, still in good repair, was the great hall, near to the kitchen and butteries. A dozen of living-rooms looking to the north, and communicating with the little chapel that faced eastwards and the buildings stretching from that to the main gate, and with the hall (which looked to the west) into the court now dismantled. This court had been the most magnificent of the two, until the Protector’s cannon tore down one side of it before the place was taken and stormed. The besiegers entered at the terrace under the clock-tower, slaying every man of the garrison, and at their head my lord’s brother, Francis Esmond.
The Restoration did not bring enough money to the Lord Castlewood to restore this ruined part of his house; where were the morning parlors, above them the long music-gallery, and before which stretched the garden-terrace, where, however, the flowers grew again which the boots of the Roundheads had trodden in their assault, and which was restored without much cost, and only a little care, by both ladies who succeeded the second viscount in the government of this mansion. Round the terrace-garden was a low wall with a wicket leading to the wooded height beyond, that is called Cromwell’s Battery to this day.
Young Harry Esmond learned the domestic part of his duty, which was easy enough, from the groom of her ladyship’s chamber: serving the Countess, as the custom commonly was in his boyhood, as page, waiting at her chair, bringing her scented water and the silver basin after dinner–sitting on her carriage-step on state occasions, or on public days introducing her company to her. This was chiefly of the Catholic gentry, of whom there were a pretty many in the country and neighboring city; and who rode not seldom to Castlewood to partake of the hospitalities there. In the second year of their residence, the company seemed especially to increase. My lord and my lady were seldom without visitors, in whose society it was curious to contrast the difference of behavior between Father Holt, the director of the family, and Doctor Tusher, the rector of the parish–Mr. Holt moving amongst the very highest as quite their equal, and as commanding them all; while poor Doctor Tusher, whose position was indeed a difficult one, having been chaplain once to the Hall, and still to the Protestant servants there, seemed more like an usher than an equal, and always rose to go away after the first course.
Also there came in these times to Father Holt many private visitors, whom, after a little, Henry Esmond had little difficulty in recognizing as ecclesiastics of the Father’s persuasion, whatever their dresses (and they adopted all) might be. These were closeted with the Father constantly, and often came and rode away without paying their devoirs to my lord and lady–to the lady and lord rather–his lordship being little more than a cipher in the house, and entirely under his domineering partner. A little fowling, a little hunting, a great deal of sleep, and a long dine at cards and table, carried through one day after another with his lordship. When meetings took place in this second year, which often would happen with closed doors, the page found my lord’s sheet of paper scribbled over with dogs and horses, and ’twas said he had much ado to keep himself awake at these councils: the Countess ruling over them, and he acting as little more than her secretary.
Father Holt began speedily to be so much occupied with these meetings as rather to neglect the education of the little lad who so gladly put himself under the kind priest’s orders. At first they read much and regularly, both in Latin and French; the Father not neglecting in anything to impress his faith upon his pupil, but not forcing him violently, and treating him with a delicacy and kindness which surprised and attached the child, always more easily won by these methods than by any severe exercise of authority. And his delight in their walks was to tell Harry of the glories of his order, of its martyrs and heroes, of its Brethren converting the heathen by myriads, traversing the desert, facing the stake, ruling the courts and councils, or braving the tortures of kings; so that Harry Esmond thought that to belong to the Jesuits was the greatest prize of life and bravest end of ambition; the greatest career here, and in heaven the surest reward; and began to long for the day, not only when he should enter into the one church and receive his first communion, but when he might join that wonderful brotherhood, which was present throughout all the world, and which numbered the wisest, the bravest, the highest born, the most eloquent of men among its members. Father Holt bade him keep his views secret, and to hide them as a great treasure which would escape him if it was revealed; and, proud of this confidence and secret vested in him, the lad became fondly attached to the master who initiated him into a mystery so wonderful and awful. And when little Tom Tusher, his neighbor, came from school for his holiday, and said how he, too, was to be bred up for an English priest, and would get what he called an exhibition from his school, and then a college scholarship and fellowship, and then a good living–it tasked young Harry Esmond’s powers of reticence not to say to his young companion, “Church! priesthood! fat living! My dear Tommy, do you call yours a church and a priesthood? What is a fat living compared to converting a hundred thousand heathens by a single sermon? What is a scholarship at Trinity by the side of a crown of martyrdom, with angels awaiting you as your head is taken off? Could your master at school sail over the Thames on his gown? Have you statues in your church that can bleed, speak, walk, and cry? My good Tommy, in dear Father Holt’s church these things take place every day. You know Saint Philip of the Willows appeared to Lord Castlewood, and caused him to turn to the one true church. No saints ever come to you.” And Harry Esmond, because of his promise to Father Holt, hiding away these treasures of faith from T. Tusher, delivered himself of them nevertheless simply to Father Holt; who stroked his head, smiled at him with his inscrutable look, and told him that he did well to meditate on these great things, and not to talk of them except under direction.
I AM PLACED UNDER A POPISH PRIEST AND BRED TO THAT RELIGION.– VISCOUNTESS CASTLEWOOD.
Had time enough been given, and his childish inclinations been properly nurtured, Harry Esmond had been a Jesuit priest ere he was a dozen years older, and might have finished his days a martyr in China or a victim on Tower Hill: for, in the few months they spent together at Castlewood, Mr. Holt obtained an entire mastery over the boy’s intellect and affections; and had brought him to think, as indeed Father Holt thought with all his heart too, that no life was so noble, no death so desirable, as that which many brethren of his famous order were ready to undergo. By love, by a brightness of wit and good-humor that charmed all, by an authority which he knew how to assume, by a mystery and silence about him which increased the child’s reverence for him, he won Harry’s absolute fealty, and would have kept it, doubtless, if schemes greater and more important than a poor little boy’s admission into orders had not called him away.
After being at home for a few months in tranquillity (if theirs might be called tranquillity, which was, in truth, a constant bickering), my lord and lady left the country for London, taking their director with them: and his little pupil scarce ever shed more bitter tears in his life than he did for nights after the first parting with his dear friend, as he lay in the lonely chamber next to that which the Father used to occupy. He and a few domestics were left as the only tenants of the great house: and, though Harry sedulously did all the tasks which the Father set him, he had many hours unoccupied, and read in the library, and bewildered his little brains with the great books he found there.
After a while, the little lad grew accustomed to the loneliness of the place; and in after days remembered this part of his life as a period not unhappy. When the family was at London the whole of the establishment travelled thither with the exception of the porter– who was, moreover, brewer, gardener, and woodman–and his wife and children. These had their lodging in the gate-house hard by, with a door into the court; and a window looking out on the green was the Chaplain’s room; and next to this a small chamber where Father Holt had his books, and Harry Esmond his sleeping closet. The side of the house facing the east had escaped the guns of the Cromwellians, whose battery was on the height facing the western court; so that this eastern end bore few marks of demolition, save in the chapel, where the painted windows surviving Edward the Sixth had been broke by the Commonwealthmen. In Father Holt’s time little Harry Esmond acted as his familiar and faithful little servitor; beating his clothes, folding his vestments, fetching his water from the well long before daylight, ready to run anywhere for the service of his beloved priest. When the Father was away, he locked his private chamber; but the room where the books were was left to little Harry, who, but for the society of this gentleman, was little less solitary when Lord Castlewood was at home.
The French wit saith that a hero is none to his valet-de-chambre, and it required less quick eyes than my lady’s little page was naturally endowed with, to see that she had many qualities by no means heroic, however much Mrs. Tusher might flatter and coax her. When Father Holt was not by, who exercised an entire authority over the pair, my lord and my lady quarrelled and abused each other so as to make the servants laugh, and to frighten the little page on duty. The poor boy trembled before his mistress, who called him by a hundred ugly names, who made nothing of boxing his ears, and tilting the silver basin in his face which it was his business to present to her after dinner. She hath repaired, by subsequent kindness to him, these severities, which it must be owned made his childhood very unhappy. She was but unhappy herself at this time, poor soul! and I suppose made her dependants lead her own sad life. I think my lord was as much afraid of her as her page was, and the only person of the household who mastered her was Mr. Holt. Harry was only too glad when the Father dined at table, and to slink away and prattle with him afterwards, or read with him, or walk with him. Luckily my Lady Viscountess did not rise till noon. Heaven help the poor waiting-woman who had charge of her toilet! I have often seen the poor wretch come out with red eyes from the closet where those long and mysterious rites of her ladyship’s dress were performed, and the backgammon-box locked up with a rap on Mrs. Tusher’s fingers when she played ill, or the game was going the wrong way.
Blessed be the king who introduced cards, and the kind inventors of piquet and cribbage, for they employed six hours at least of her ladyship’s day, during which her family was pretty easy. Without this occupation my lady frequently declared she should die. Her dependants one after another relieved guard–’twas rather a dangerous post to play with her ladyship–and took the cards turn about. Mr. Holt would sit with her at piquet during hours together, at which time she behaved herself properly; and as for Dr. Tusher, I believe he would have left a parishioner’s dying bed, if summoned to play a rubber with his patroness at Castlewood. Sometimes, when they were pretty comfortable together, my lord took a hand. Besides these my lady had her faithful poor Tusher, and one, two, three gentlewomen whom Harry Esmond could recollect in his time. They could not bear that genteel service very long; one after another tried and failed at it. These and the housekeeper, and little Harry Esmond, had a table of their own. Poor ladies their life was far harder than the page’s. He was sound asleep, tucked up in his little bed, whilst they were sitting by her ladyship reading her to sleep, with the “News Letter” or the “Grand Cyrus.” My lady used to have boxes of new plays from London, and Harry was forbidden, under the pain of a whipping, to look into them. I am afraid he deserved the penalty pretty often, and got it sometimes. Father Holt applied it twice or thrice, when he caught the young scapegrace with a delightful wicked comedy of Mr. Shadwell’s or Mr. Wycherley’s under his pillow.
These, when he took any, were my lord’s favorite reading. But he was averse to much study, and, as his little page fancied, to much occupation of any sort.
It always seemed to young Harry Esmond that my lord treated him with more kindness when his lady was not present, and Lord Castlewood would take the lad sometimes on his little journeys a- hunting or a-birding; he loved to play at cards and tric-trac with him, which games the boy learned to pleasure his lord: and was growing to like him better daily, showing a special pleasure if Father Holt gave a good report of him, patting him on the head, and promising that he would provide for the boy. However, in my lady’s presence, my lord showed no such marks of kindness, and affected to treat the lad roughly, and rebuked him sharply for little faults, for which he in a manner asked pardon of young Esmond when they were private, saying if he did not speak roughly, she would, and his tongue was not such a bad one as his lady’s–a point whereof the boy, young as he was, was very well assured.
Great public events were happening all this while, of which the simple young page took little count. But one day, riding into the neighboring town on the step of my lady’s coach, his lordship and she and Father Holt being inside, a great mob of people came hooting and jeering round the coach, bawling out “The Bishops for ever!” “Down with the Pope!” “No Popery! no Popery! Jezebel, Jezebel!” so that my lord began to laugh, my lady’s eyes to roll with anger, for she was as bold as a lioness, and feared nobody; whilst Mr. Holt, as Esmond saw from his place on the step, sank back with rather an alarmed face, crying out to her ladyship, “For God’s sake, madam, do not speak or look out of window; sit still.” But she did not obey this prudent injunction of the Father; she thrust her head out of the coach window, and screamed out to the coachman, “Flog your way through them, the brutes, James, and use your whip!”
The mob answered with a roaring jeer of laughter, and fresh cries of “Jezebel! Jezebel!” My lord only laughed the more: he was a languid gentleman: nothing seemed to excite him commonly, though I have seen him cheer and halloo the hounds very briskly, and his face (which was generally very yellow and calm) grow quite red and cheerful during a burst over the Downs after a hare, and laugh, and swear, and huzzah at a cockfight, of which sport he was very fond. And now, when the mob began to hoot his lady, he laughed with something of a mischievous look, as though he expected sport, and thought that she and they were a match.
James the coachman was more afraid of his mistress than the mob, probably, for he whipped on his horses as he was bidden, and the post-boy that rode with the first pair (my lady always rode with her coach-and-six,) gave a cut of his thong over the shoulders of one fellow who put his hand out towards the leading horse’s rein.
It was a market-day, and the country-people were all assembled with their baskets of poultry, eggs, and such things; the postilion had no sooner lashed the man who would have taken hold of his horse, but a great cabbage came whirling like a bombshell into the carriage, at which my lord laughed more, for it knocked my lady’s fan out of her hand, and plumped into Father Holt’s stomach. Then came a shower of carrots and potatoes.
“For Heaven’s sake be still!” says Mr. Holt; “we are not ten paces from the ‘Bell’ archway, where they can shut the gates on us, and keep out this canaille.”
The little page was outside the coach on the step, and a fellow in the crowd aimed a potato at him, and hit him in the eye, at which the poor little wretch set up a shout; the man laughed, a great big saddler’s apprentice of the town. “Ah! you d— little yelling Popish bastard,” he said, and stooped to pick up another; the crowd had gathered quite between the horses and the inn door by this time, and the coach was brought to a dead stand-still. My lord jumped as briskly as a boy out of the door on his side of the coach, squeezing little Harry behind it; had hold of the potato- thrower’s collar in an instant, and the next moment the brute’s heels were in the air, and he fell on the stones with a thump.
“You hulking coward!” says he; “you pack of screaming blackguards! how dare you attack children, and insult women? Fling another shot at that carriage, you sneaking pigskin cobbler, and by the Lord I’ll send my rapier through you!”
Some of the mob cried, “Huzzah, my lord!” for they knew him, and the saddler’s man was a known bruiser, near twice as big as my lord Viscount.
“Make way there,” says he (he spoke in a high shrill voice, but with a great air of authority). “Make way, and let her ladyship’s carriage pass.” The men that were between the coach and the gate of the “Bell” actually did make way, and the horses went in, my lord walking after them with his hat on his head.
As he was going in at the gate, through which the coach had just rolled, another cry begins, of “No Popery–no Papists!” My lord turns round and faces them once more.
“God save the King!” says he at the highest pitch of his voice. “Who dares abuse the King’s religion? You, you d–d psalm-singing cobbler, as sure as I’m a magistrate of this county I’ll commit you!” The fellow shrank back, and my lord retreated with all the honors of the day. But when the little flurry caused by the scene was over, and the flush passed off his face, he relapsed into his usual languor, trifled with his little dog, and yawned when my lady spoke to him.
This mob was one of many thousands that were going about the country at that time, huzzahing for the acquittal of the seven bishops who had been tried just then, and about whom little Harry Esmond at that time knew scarce anything. It was Assizes at Hexton, and there was a great meeting of the gentry at the “Bell;” and my lord’s people had their new liveries on, and Harry a little suit of blue and silver, which he wore upon occasions of state; and the gentlefolks came round and talked to my lord: and a judge in a red gown, who seemed a very great personage, especially complimented him and my lady, who was mighty grand. Harry remembers her train borne up by her gentlewoman. There was an assembly and ball at the great room at the “Bell,” and other young gentlemen of the county families looked on as he did. One of them jeered him for his black eye, which was swelled by the potato, and another called him a bastard, on which he and Harry fell to fisticuffs. My lord’s cousin, Colonel Esmond of Walcote, was there, and separated the two lads–a great tall gentleman, with a handsome good-natured face. The boy did not know how nearly in after-life he should be allied to Colonel Esmond, and how much kindness he should have to owe him.
There was little love between the two families. My lady used not to spare Colonel Esmond in talking of him, for reasons which have been hinted already; but about which, at his tender age, Henry Esmond could be expected to know nothing.
Very soon afterwards, my lord and lady went to London with Mr. Holt, leaving, however, the page behind them. The little man had the great house of Castlewood to himself; or between him and the housekeeper, Mrs. Worksop, an old lady who was a kinswoman of the family in some distant way, and a Protestant, but a staunch Tory and king’s-man, as all the Esmonds were. He used to go to school to Dr. Tusher when he was at home, though the Doctor was much occupied too. There was a great stir and commotion everywhere, even in the little quiet village of Castlewood, whither a party of people came from the town, who would have broken Castlewood Chapel windows, but the village people turned out, and even old Sieveright, the republican blacksmith, along with them: for my lady, though she was a Papist, and had many odd ways, was kind to the tenantry, and there was always a plenty of beef, and blankets, and medicine for the poor at Castlewood Hall.
A kingdom was changing hands whilst my lord and lady were away. King James was flying, the Dutchmen were coming; awful stories about them and the Prince of Orange used old Mrs. Worksop to tell to the idle little page.
He liked the solitude of the great house very well; he had all the play-books to read, and no Father Holt to whip him, and a hundred childish pursuits and pastimes, without doors and within, which made this time very pleasant.
MY SUPERIORS ARE ENGAGED IN PLOTS FOR THE RESTORATION OF KING JAMES II.
Not having been able to sleep, for thinking of some lines for eels which he had placed the night before, the lad was lying in his little bed, waiting for the hour when the gate would be open, and he and his comrade, John Lockwood, the porter’s son, might go to the pond and see what fortune had brought them. At daybreak John was to awaken him, but his own eagerness for the sport had served as a reveillez long since–so long, that it seemed to him as if the day never would come.
It might have been four o’clock when he heard the door of the opposite chamber, the Chaplain’s room, open, and the voice of a man coughing in the passage. Harry jumped up, thinking for certain it was a robber, or hoping perhaps for a ghost, and, flinging open his own door, saw before him the Chaplain’s door open, and a light inside, and a figure standing in the doorway, in the midst of a great smoke which issued from the room.
“Who’s there?” cried out the boy, who was of a good spirit.
“Silentium!” whispered the other; “’tis I, my boy!” and, holding his hand out, Harry had no difficulty in recognizing his master and friend, Father Holt. A curtain was over the window of the Chaplain’s room that looked to the court, and Harry saw that the smoke came from a great flame of papers which were burning in a brazier when he entered the Chaplain’s room. After giving a hasty greeting and blessing to the lad, who was charmed to see his tutor, the Father continued the burning of his papers, drawing them from a cupboard over the mantel-piece wall, which Harry had never seen before.
Father Holt laughed, seeing the lad’s attention fixed at once on this hole. “That is right, Harry,” he said; “faithful little famuli, see all and say nothing. You are faithful, I know.”
“I know I would go to the stake for you,” said Harry.
“I don’t want your head,” said the Father, patting it kindly; all you have to do is to hold your tongue. Let us burn these papers, and say nothing to anybody. Should you like to read them?”
Harry Esmond blushed, and held down his head; he HAD looked as the fact was, and without thinking, at the paper before him; and though he had seen it, could not understand a word of it, the letters being quite clear enough, but quite without meaning. They burned the papers, beating down the ashes in a brazier, so that scarce any traces of them remained.
Harry had been accustomed to see Father Holt in more dresses than one; it not being safe, or worth the danger, for Popish ecclesiastics to wear their proper dress; and he was, in consequence, in no wise astonished that the priest should now appear before him in a riding-dress, with large buff leather boots, and a feather to his hat, plain, but such as gentlemen wore.
“You know the secret of the cupboard,” said he, laughing, “and must be prepared for other mysteries;” and he opened–but not a secret cupboard this time–only a wardrobe, which he usually kept locked, and from which he now took out two or three dresses and perruques of different colors, and a couple of swords of a pretty make (Father Holt was an expert practitioner with the small-sword, and every day, whilst he was at home, he and his pupil practised this exercise, in which the lad became a very great proficient), a military coat and cloak, and a farmer’s smock, and placed them in the large hole over the mantel-piece from which the papers had been taken.
“If they miss the cupboard,” he said, “they will not find these; if they find them, they’ll tell no tales, except that Father Holt wore more suits of clothes than one. All Jesuits do. You know what deceivers we are, Harry.”
Harry was alarmed at the notion that his friend was about to leave him; but “No,” the priest said, “I may very likely come back with my lord in a few days. We are to be tolerated; we are not to be persecuted. But they may take a fancy to pay a visit at Castlewood ere our return; and, as gentlemen of my cloth are suspected, they might choose to examine my papers, which concern nobody–at least not them.” And to this day, whether the papers in cipher related to politics, or to the affairs of that mysterious society whereof Father Holt was a member, his pupil, Harry Esmond, remains in entire ignorance.
The rest of his goods, his small wardrobe, &c. Holt left untouched on his shelves and in his cupboard, taking down–with a laugh, however–and flinging into the brazier, where he only half burned them, some theological treatises which he had been writing against the English divines. “And now,” said he, “Henry, my son, you may testify, with a safe conscience, that you saw me burning Latin sermons the last time I was here before I went away to London; and it will be daybreak directly, and I must be away before Lockwood is stirring.”
“Will not Lockwood let you out, sir?” Esmond asked. Holt laughed; he was never more gay or good-humored than when in the midst of action or danger.
“Lockwood knows nothing of my being here, mind you,” he said; “nor would you, you little wretch! had you slept better. You must forget that I have been here; and now farewell. Close the door, and go to your own room, and don’t come out till–stay, why should you not know one secret more? I know you will never betray me.”
In the Chaplain’s room were two windows; the one looking into the court facing westwards to the fountain; the other, a small casement strongly barred, and looking on to the green in front of the Hall. This window was too high to reach from the ground; but, mounting on a buffet which stood beneath it, Father Holt showed me how, by pressing on the base of the window, the whole framework of lead, glass, and iron stanchions descended into a cavity worked below, from which it could be drawn and restored to its usual place from without; a broken pane being purposely open to admit the hand which was to work upon the spring of the machine.
“When I am gone,” Father Holt said, “you may push away the buffet, so that no one may fancy that an exit has been made that way; lock the door; place the key–where shall we put the key?–under ‘Chrysostom’ on the book-shelf; and if any ask for it, say I keep it there, and told you where to find it, if you had need to go to my room. The descent is easy down the wall into the ditch; and so, once more farewell, until I see thee again, my dear son.” And with this the intrepid Father mounted the buffet with great agility and briskness, stepped across the window, lifting up the bars and framework again from the other side, and only leaving room for Harry Esmond to stand on tiptoe and kiss his hand before the casement closed, the bars fixing as firmly as ever, seemingly, in the stone arch overhead. When Father Holt next arrived at Castlewood, it was by the public gate on horseback; and he never so much as alluded to the existence of the private issue to Harry, except when he had need of a private messenger from within, for which end, no doubt, he had instructed his young pupil in the means of quitting the Hall.
Esmond, young as he was, would have died sooner than betray his friend and master, as Mr. Holt well knew; for he had tried the boy more than once, putting temptations in his way, to see whether he would yield to them and confess afterwards, or whether he would resist them, as he did sometimes, or whether he would lie, which he never did. Holt instructing the boy on this point, however, that if to keep silence is not to lie, as it certainly is not, yet silence is, after all, equivalent to a negation–and therefore a downright No, in the interest of justice or your friend, and in reply to a question that may be prejudicial to either, is not criminal, but, on the contrary, praiseworthy; and as lawful a way as the other of eluding a wrongful demand. For instance (says he), suppose a good citizen, who had seen his Majesty take refuge there, had been asked, “Is King Charles up that oak-tree?” his duty would have been not to say, Yes–so that the Cromwellians should seize the king and murder him like his father–but No; his Majesty being private in the tree, and therefore not to be seen there by loyal eyes: all which instruction, in religion and morals, as well as in the rudiments of the tongues and sciences, the boy took eagerly and with gratitude from his tutor. When, then, Holt was gone, and told Harry not to see him, it was as if he had never been. And he had this answer pat when he came to be questioned a few days after.
The Prince of Orange was then at Salisbury, as young Esmond learned from seeing Doctor Tusher in his best cassock (though the roads were muddy, and he never was known to wear his silk, only his stuff one, a-horseback), with a great orange cockade in his broad-leafed hat, and Nahum, his clerk, ornamented with a like decoration. The Doctor was walking up and down in front of his parsonage, when little Esmond saw him, and heard him say he was going to pay his duty to his Highness the Prince, as he mounted his pad and rode away with Nahum behind. The village people had orange cockades too, and his friend the blacksmith’s laughing daughter pinned one into Harry’s old hat, which he tore out indignantly when they bade him to cry “God save the Prince of Orange and the Protestant religion!” but the people only laughed, for they liked the boy in the village, where his solitary condition moved the general pity, and where he found friendly welcomes and faces in many houses. Father Holt had many friends there too, for he not only would fight the blacksmith at theology, never losing his temper, but laughing the whole time in his pleasant way; but he cured him of an ague with quinquina, and was always ready with a kind word for any man that asked it, so that they said in the village ’twas a pity the two were Papists.
The Director and the Vicar of Castlewood agreed very well; indeed, the former was a perfectly-bred gentleman, and it was the latter’s business to agree with everybody. Doctor Tusher and the lady’s- maid, his spouse, had a boy who was about the age of little Esmond; and there was such a friendship between the lads, as propinquity and tolerable kindness and good-humor on either side would be pretty sure to occasion. Tom Tusher was sent off early, however, to a school in London, whither his father took him and a volume of sermons, in the first year of the reign of King James; and Tom returned but once, a year afterwards, to Castlewood for many years of his scholastic and collegiate life. Thus there was less danger to Tom of a perversion of his faith by the Director, who scarce ever saw him, than there was to Harry, who constantly was in the Vicar’s company; but as long as Harry’s religion was his Majesty’s, and my lord’s, and my lady’s, the Doctor said gravely, it should not be for him to disturb or disquiet him: it was far from him to say that his Majesty’s Church was not a branch of the Catholic Church; upon which Father Holt used, according to his custom, to laugh, and say that the Holy Church throughout all the world, and the noble Army of Martyrs, were very much obliged to the Doctor.
It was while Dr. Tusher was away at Salisbury that there came a troop of dragoons with orange scarfs, and quartered in Castlewood, and some of them came up to the Hall, where they took possession, robbing nothing however beyond the hen-house and the beer-cellar: and only insisting upon going through the house and looking for papers. The first room they asked to look at was Father Holt’s room, of which Harry Esmond brought the key, and they opened the drawers and the cupboards, and tossed over the papers and clothes– but found nothing except his books and clothes, and the vestments in a box by themselves, with which the dragoons made merry, to Harry Esmond’s horror. And to the questions which the gentleman put to Harry, he replied that Father Holt was a very kind man to him, and a very learned man, and Harry supposed would tell him none of his secrets if he had any. He was about eleven years old at this time, and looked as innocent as boys of his age.
The family were away more than six months, and when they returned they were in the deepest state of dejection, for King James had been banished, the Prince of Orange was on the throne, and the direst persecutions of those of the Catholic faith were apprehended by my lady, who said she did not believe that there was a word of truth in the promises of toleration that Dutch monster made, or in a single word the perjured wretch said. My lord and lady were in a manner prisoners in their own house; so her ladyship gave the little page to know, who was by this time growing of an age to understand what was passing about him, and something of the characters of the people he lived with.
“We are prisoners,” says she; “in everything but chains, we are prisoners. Let them come, let them consign me to dungeons, or strike off my head from this poor little throat” (and she clasped it in her long fingers). “The blood of the Esmonds will always flow freely for their kings. We are not like the Churchills–the Judases, who kiss their master and betray him. We know how to suffer, how even to forgive in the royal cause” (no doubt it was to that fatal business of losing the place of Groom of the Posset to which her ladyship alluded, as she did half a dozen times in the day). “Let the tyrant of Orange bring his rack and his odious Dutch tortures–the beast! the wretch! I spit upon him and defy him. Cheerfully will I lay this head upon the block; cheerfully will I accompany my lord to the scaffold: we will cry ‘God save King James!’ with our dying breath, and smile in the face of the executioner.” And she told her page, a hundred times at least, of the particulars of the last interview which she had with his Majesty.