Uzyskaj dostęp do tej i ponad 60000 książek od 6,99 zł miesięcznie
George Payne Rainsford James, was an English novelist and historical writer, the son of a physician in London. He was for many years British Consul at various places in the United States and on the Continent.Collection of 28 Works of G. P. R. James________________________________________AgincourtArabella StuartCorse de Leon, Volume IDarnleyDe L'OrmeGowrieHenry of Guise (Vol. I)Henry of Guise (Vol. II)Henry of Guise (Vol. III)Lord Of Montagu's PageOne in a ThousandPhilip AugustusRichelieu v. 1Richelieu v. 2Richelieu v. 3The Black EagleThe Castle of EhrensteinThe Desultory ManThe ForgeryThe GipsyThe History of ChivalryThe Huguenot (Volumes I & II)The King's HighwayThe Little Ball O' FireThe Old DominionThe RobberThe Smuggler Vol IThe Woodman
Ebooka przeczytasz w aplikacjach Legimi na:
Liczba stron: 20272
Odsłuch ebooka (TTS) dostepny w abonamencie „ebooki+audiobooki bez limitu” w aplikacjach Legimi na:
The Collected Complete Works of G. P. R. James
Corse de Leon, Volume I
Henry of Guise (Vol. I)
Henry of Guise (Vol. II)
Henry of Guise (Vol. III)
Lord Of Montagu's Page
One in a Thousand
Richelieu v. 1
Richelieu v. 2
Richelieu v. 3
The Black Eagle
The Castle of Ehrenstein
The Desultory Man
The History of Chivalry
The Huguenot (Volumes I & II)
The King's Highway
The Little Ball O' Fire
The Old Dominion
The Smuggler Vol I
G. P. R. JAMES, ESQ.
SIMPKIN, MARSHALL, AND CO.
STATIONERS' HALL COURT.
CONTENTSCHAPTERI.THE NIGHT RIDE.
II.THE HALL AND ITS DENIZENS.
III.THE FOREGONE EVENTS.
IV.THE GLUTTON MASS.
VIII.THE DAY OF FESTIVAL.
IX.THE SICK MIND.
X.THE MINSTREL'S GIRL.
XII.THE HOURS OF JOY.
XVI.THE NEW FRIENDS.
XVIII.THE JOURNEY AND THE VOYAGE.
XIX.THE FOREIGN LAND.
XX.THE NEW ACQUAINTANCES.
XXII.THE COUNT OF CHAROLOIS.
XXIV.THOSE WHO WERE LEFT BEHIND.
XXVIII.THE FRIEND ESTRANGED.
XXXII.TRUE LOVE'S DEFENCE.
XXXIX.THE PRISONER FREE.
XLIII.THE FOX IN THE SNARE.
XLIV.THE ORDERING OF THE BATTLE.
THE NIGHT RIDE.
The night was as black as ink; not a solitary twinkling star looked out through that wide expanse of shadow, which our great Poet has called the "blanket of the dark;" clouds covered the heaven; the moon had not risen to tinge them even with grey, and the sun had too long set to leave one faint streak of purple upon the edge of the western sky. Trees, houses, villages, fields, and gardens, all lay in one profound obscurity, and even the course of the high-road itself required eyes well-accustomed to night-travelling to be able to distinguish it, as it wandered on through a rich part of Hampshire, amidst alternate woods and meadows. Yet at that murky hour, a traveller on horseback rode forward upon his way, at an easy pace, and with a light heart, if one might judge by the snatches of homely ballads that broke from his lips as he trotted on. These might, indeed, afford a fallacious indication of what was going on within the breast, and in his case they did so; for habit is more our master than we know, and often rules our external demeanour, whenever the spirit is called to take council in the deep chambers within, showing upon the surface, without any effort on our part to hide our thoughts, a very different aspect from that of the mind's business at the moment.
Thus, then, the traveller who there rode along, saluting the ear of night with scraps of old songs, sung in a low, but melodious voice, was as thoughtful, if not as sad, as it was in his nature to be; but yet, as that nature was a cheerful one and all his habits were gay, no sooner were the eyes of the spirit called to the consideration of deeper things, than custom exercised her sway over the animal part, and he gave voice, as we have said, to the old ballads which had cheered his boyhood and his youth.
Whatever were his contemplations, they were interrupted, just as he came to a small stream which crossed the road and then wandered along at its side, by first hearing the quick foot-falls of a horse approaching, and then a loud, but fine voice, exclaiming, "Who goes there?"
"A friend to all true men," replied the traveller; "a foe to all false knaves. 'Merry sings the throstle under the thorn.' Which be you, friend of the highway?"
"Faith, I hardly know," replied the stranger; "every man is a bit of both, I believe. But if you can tell me my way to Winchester, I will give you thanks."
"I want nothing more," answered the first traveller, drawing in his rein. "But Winchester!--Good faith, that is a long way off; and you are going from it, master:" and he endeavoured, as far as the darkness would permit, to gain some knowledge of the stranger's appearance. It seemed that of a young man of good proportions, tall and slim, but with broad shoulders and long arms. He wore no cloak, and his dress fitting tight to his body, as was the fashion of the day, allowed his interlocutor to perceive the unencumbered outline of his figure.
"A long way off!" said the second traveller, as his new acquaintance gazed at him; "that is very unlucky; but all my stars are under that black cloud. What is to be done now, I wonder?"
"What do you want to do?" inquired the first traveller. "Winchester is distant five and twenty miles or more."
"Odds life! I want to find somewhere to lodge me and my horse for a night," replied the other, "at a less distance than twenty-five miles, and yet not quite upon this very spot."
"Why not Andover?" asked his companion; "'tis but six miles, and I am going thither."
"Humph!" said the stranger, in a tone not quite satisfied; "it must be so, if better cannot be found; and yet, my friend, I would fain find some other lodging. Is there no inn hard by, where carriers bait their beasts and fill their bellies, and country-folks carouse on nights of merry-making? or some old hall or goodly castle, where a truckle bed, or one of straw, a nunchion of bread and cheese, and a draught of ale, is not likely to be refused to a traveller with a good coat on his back and long-toed shoes?"
"Oh, ay!" rejoined the first; "of the latter there are many round, but, on my life, it will be difficult to direct you to them. The men of this part have a fondness for crooked ways, and, unless you were the Dædalus who made them, or had some fair dame to guide you by the clue, you might wander about for as many hours as would take you to Winchester."
"Then Andover it must be, I suppose," answered the other; "though, to say sooth, I may there have to pay for a frolic, the score of which might better be reckoned with other men than myself."
"A frolic!" said his companion; "nothing more, my friend?"
"No, on my life!" replied the other; "a scurvy frolic, such as only a fool would commit; but when a man has nothing else to do, he is sure to fall into folly, and I am idle perforce."
"Well, I'll believe you," answered the first, after a moment's thought; "I have, thank Heaven, the gift of credulity, and believe all that men tell me. Come, I will turn back with you, and guide you to a place of rest, though I shall be well laughed at for my pains."
"Not for an act of generous courtesy, surely," said the stranger, quitting the half-jesting tone in which he had hitherto spoken. "If they laugh at you for that, I care not to lodge with them, and will not put your kindness to the test, for I should look for a cold reception."
"Nay, nay, 'tis not for that, they will laugh," rejoined the other, "and perhaps it may jump with my humour to go back, too. If you have committed a folly in a frolic to-night, I have committed one in anger. Come with me, therefore, and, as we go, give me some name by which to call you when we arrive, that I may not have to throw you into my uncle's hall as a keeper with a dead deer; and, moreover, before we go, give me your word that we have no frolics here, for I would not, for much, that any one I brought, should move the old knight's heart with aught but pleasure."
"There is my hand, good youth," replied the stranger, following, as the other turned his horse; "and I never break my word, whatever men say of me, though they tell strange tales. As for my name, people call me Hal of Hadnock; it will do as well as another."
"For the nonce," added his companion, understanding well that it was assumed; "but it matters not. Let us ride on, and the gate shall soon be opened to you; for I do think they will be glad to see me back again, though I may not perchance stay long.
'The porter rose anon certaine As soon as he heard John call.'"
"You seem learned for a countryman," said the traveller, riding on by his side; "but, perchance, I am speaking to a clerk?"
"Good faith, no," replied the first wayfarer; "more soldier than clerk, Hal of Hadnock; as old Robert of Langland says, 'I cannot perfectly my Paternoster, as the priest it singeth, but I can rhyme of Robin Hode and Randof Earl of Chester.' I have cheered my boyhood with many a song and my youth with many a ballad. When lying in the field upon the marches of Wales, I have wiled away many a cold night with the--
'Quens Mountfort, sa dure mort,'
'Richard of Alemaigne, while he was king,'
and then in the cold blasts of March, I ever found comfort in--
'Summer is icumen in, Lhude sing cuccu, Groweth sede and bloweth mode, And springeth the wode nu.'"
"And good reason, too," said Hal of Hadnock; "I do the same, i'faith; and when wintry winds are blowing, I think ever, that a warmer day may come and all be bright again. Were it not for that, indeed, I might well be cold-hearted."
"Fie, never flinch!" cried his gay companion; "there is but one thing on earth should make a bold man coldhearted."
"And what may that be?" asked the other; "to lose his dinner?"
"No, good life!" exclaimed the first,--"to lose his lady's love."
"Ay, is it there the saddle galls?" said Hal of Hadnock.
"Faith, not a whit," answered his fellow-traveller; "if it did, I should leave off singing. You are wrong in your guess, Master Hal. I may lose my lady, but not my lady's love, or I am much mistaken; and while that stays with me I will both sing and hope."
"'Tis the best comfort," replied Hal of Hadnock, "and generally brings success. But what am I to call you, fair sir? for it mars one's speech to have no name for a companion."
"Now, were not my uncle's house within three miles," said the other, "I would pay you in your own coin, and bid you call me Dick of Andover; for I am fond of secrets, and keep them faithfully, except when they are likely to be found out; but such being the case now, you must call me Richard of Woodville, if you would have my friends know you mean a poor squire who has ever sought the places where hard blows are plenty; but who missed his spurs at Bramham Moor by being sent by his good friend Sir Thomas Rokeby to bear tidings of Northumberland's incursion to the King. I would fain have staid and carried news of the victory; but, good sooth, Sir Thomas said he could trust me to tell the truth clearly as well as fight, and that, though he could trust the others to fight, he could not find one who would not make the matter either more or less to the King, than it really was. See what bad luck it is to be a plain-spoken fellow."
"Good luck as well as bad," replied Hal of Hadnock; and in such conversation they pursued their way, riding not quite so fast as either had been doing when first they met, and slackening their pace to a walk, when, about half a mile farther forward, they quitted the high road and took to the narrow lanes of the country, which, as the reader may easily conceive, were not quite as good for travelling in those days, as even at present, when in truth they are often bad enough. They soon issued forth, however, upon a more open track, where the river again ran along by the roadside, sheltered here and there by copses which occasionally rose from the very brink; and, just as they regained it, the moon appearing over the low banks that fell crossing each other over its course, poured, from beneath the fringe of heavy clouds that canopied the sky above, her full pale light upon the whole extent of the stream. There was something fine but melancholy in the sight, grave and even grand; and though there were none of those large objects which seem generally necessary to produce the sublime, there was a feeling of vastness given by the broad expanse of shadow overhead, and the long line of glistening brightness below, broken by the thick black masses of brushwood that here and there bent over the flat surface of the water.
"This is fine," said Hal of Hadnock; "I love such night scenes with the solitary moon and the deep woods and the gleaming river--ay, even the dark clouds themselves. They are to me like a king's fate, where so many heavy things brood over him, so many black and impenetrable things surround him, and where yet often a clear yet cold effulgence pours upon his way, grander and calmer than the warmer and gayer beams that fall upon the course of ordinary men."
His companion turned and gazed at him for a moment by the moonlight, but made no observation, till the other continued, pointing with his hand, "What is that drifting on the water? Surely 'tis a man's head!"
"An otter with a trout in his mouth, speeding to his hole," replied Richard of Woodville; "he will not be long in sight.--See! he is gone. All things fly from man. We have established our character for butchery with the brute creation; and they wisely avoid the slaughter-house of our presence."
"I thought it was something human, living or dead," replied Hal of Hadnock. "Methinks it were a likely spot for a man to rid himself of his enemy, and give the carrion to the waters; or for a love-lorn damsel to bury griefs and memories beneath the sleepy shining of the moonlight stream. The Leucadian promontory was an awful leap, and bold as well as sad must have been the heart to take it; but here, timid despair might creep quietly into the soft closing wave, and find a more peaceful death-bed than the slow decay of a broken-heart."
"Sad thoughts, sir, sad thoughts," replied Richard of Woodville; "and yet you seemed merry enough just now."
"Ay, the fit comes upon me as it will, comrade," replied the other; "and, good faith, I strive not to prevent it. I amuse myself with my own humours, standing, as it were, without myself, and looking inward like a spectator at a tournay--now laughing at all I see, now ready to weep; and yet for the world I would not stop the scene, were it in my power to cast down my warder at the keenest point of strife, and say, 'Pause! no more!' Sometimes there lives not a merrier heart on this side the sea, and sometimes not a sadder within the waters. At one time I could laugh like a clown at a fair, and at others would make ballads to the little stars, full of sad homilies."
"Not so, I," rejoined Richard of Woodville. "I strive for an equal mind. I would fain be always light-hearted; and though, when I am crossed, I may be hot and hasty, ready to strive with others or myself, yet, in good truth, I soon learn to bear with all things, and to endure the ills that fall to my portion, as lightly as may be. Man's a beast of burden, and must carry his pack-saddle; so it is better to do it quietly than to kick under the load. Out upon those who go seeking for sorrows, a sort of commodity they may find at their own door! One whines over man's ingratitude; another takes to heart the scorn of the great; another broods over his merit neglected, and his good deeds forgotten; but, were they wise, and did good without thought of thanks--were they high of heart, and knew themselves as great in their inmost soul as the greatest in the land--were they bright in mind, and found pleasure in the mind's exercise--they would both merit more and repine less, ay, and be surer of their due in the end."
"By my life, you said you were no clerk, Richard of Woodville," cried his companion, "and here you have preached me a sermon, fit to banish moon-sick melancholy from the land. But say, good youth, is yonder light looking out of your uncle's hall window--there, far on the other side of the stream?"
"No, no," answered Woodville; "ride after it, and see how far it will lead you. You will soon find yourself neck deep in the swamp. 'Tis a Will-o'-the-wisp. My uncle's house lies on before, beyond the village of Abbot's Ann, just a quarter of a mile from the Abbey; so, as the one brother owns the hall, and the other rules the monastery, they can aid and countenance each other, whether it be at a merrymaking or a broil. Then, too, as the good Abbot is as meek as an ewe in a May morning, and Sir Philip is as fiery as the sun in June, the one can tame the other's wrath, or work up his courage, as the case may be--but here we see the first houses, and lights in the window, too. Why, how now! Dame Julien has not gone to bed--but, I forgot, there is a glutton mass to-morrow, and, as the reeve's wife, she must be cooking capons, truly. But, hark! there is a sound of a cithern, and some one singing. Good faith, they are making merry by their fireside, though curfew has tolled long since. Well, Heaven send all good men a cheerful evening, and a happy hearth! Perhaps they have some poor minstrel within, and are keeping up his heart with kindness; for Julien is a bountiful dame, and the reeve, though somewhat hard upon the young knaves, is no way pinched when there is a sad face at his door. Well, fair sir, we shall soon be home. A pleasant place is home; ay, it is a pleasant place, and, when far away, we think of it always. God help the man who has no home! and let all good Christians befriend him, for he has need."
Although Hal of Hadnock made no farther observations upon his companion's mood and character, there was something therein that struck and pleased him greatly; and he was no mean judge of his fellow-men, for he had mingled with many of every class and degree. Quick and ready in discovering, by small traits, the secrets of that complicated mystery, the human heart, he saw, even in the love of music and poetry, in a man habituated to camps and fields of battle, a higher and finer mind than the common society of the day afforded; for it must not be thought, that either in the knight or the knight's son, of our old friend Chaucer, the poet gave an accurate picture of the gentry of the age. That there were such is not to be doubted--but they were few; and the generality of the nobles and gentlemen of those times were sadly illiterate and rude. The occasional words Richard of Woodville let drop, too, regarding his own scheme of home philosophy, showed, his companion thought, a strength and rigour of character which might be serviceable to others as well as himself, in any good and honourable cause; and Hal of Hadnock, as they rode on, said to himself, "I will see more of this man."
After passing through the little village, and issuing out again into the open country, they saw, by the light of the moon, now rising higher, and dispersing the clouds as she advanced, a high isolated hill standing out, detached from all the woods and scattered hedge-rows round. At a little distance from its base, upon the left, appeared the tall pinnacles and tower of an abbey and a church, cutting dark against the lustrous sky behind; and, partly hidden by the trees on the right, partly rising above them, were seen the bold lines of another building, in a sterner style of architecture.
"That is your uncle's dwelling, I suppose?" said Hal of Hadnock, pointing on with his hand. "Shall we find any one up? It is hard upon ten o'clock."
"Oh, no fear," replied Richard of Woodville. "Good Sir Philip Beauchamp sits late in the hall. He will not take his white head to the pillow for an hour or two; and the ladies like well to keep him company. Here, to the left, is a shorter way through the wood; but look to your horse's footing, for the woodmen were busy this morning, and may have left branches about."
In less than five minutes more they were before the embattled gates of one of those old English dwellings, half castle, half house, which denoted the owner to be a man of station and consideration--just a step below, in fortune or rank, those mighty barons who sheltered themselves from the storms of a factious and lawless epoch, in fortresses filled with an army of retainers and dependants. As they approached, Richard of Woodville raised his voice and called aloud,
"Tim Morris! Tim Morris!" He waited a moment, singing to himself the two verses he had repeated before--
"'The porter rose again certaine As soon as he heard John call;'"
and then added, "But it will be different now, I fancy; for honest Tim is as deaf as a miller, and his boy is sound asleep, I suspect. Tim Morris, I say!--He will keep us here all night:--Tim Morris!--How now, old sluggard!" he continued, as the ancient porter rolled back the gate; "were you snoring in your wicker-chair, that you make us dance attendance, as you do the country folk of a Monday morning?"
"'Tis fit they should learn to dance the Morris dance, as they call it, Master Dick," answered the porter, laughing, and holding up his lantern. "God yield ye, sir! I thought you were gone for the night, and I was stripping off my jerkin."
"Is Simeon of Roydon gone, then?" asked Woodville.
"Nay, sir, he stays all night," answered the porter. "Here, boy! here, knave! turn thee out, and run across the court to take the horses."
A sleepy boy, with senses yet but half awake, crept out from the door, and followed Richard of Woodville and his companion, as they rode across the small space that separated the gate from the Hall itself. There, at a flight of steps, leading to a portal which might well have served a church, they dismounted; and, advancing before his fellow-traveller, Richard of Woodville raised the heavy bar of hammered iron, which served for a latch, and entered the hall, singing aloud--
"'As I rode on a Monday, Between Wettenden and Wall, All along the broad way, I met a little man withal.'"
As he spoke he pushed back the door for Hal of Hadnock to enter, and a scene was presented to his companion's sight which deserves rather to begin than end a chapter.
THE HALL AND ITS DENIZENS.
The hall of the old house at Dunbury--long swept away by the two great destroyers of man's works, Time and Change--was a spacious vaulted chamber, of about sixty feet in its entire length, by from thirty-five to forty in width; but, at the end next the court, a part of the pavement, of about nine feet broad, and some eighteen or twenty inches lower than the rest, was separated from the hall by two broad steps running all the way across. This inferior space presented three doors; the great one communicating at once with the court, and two others in the angles, at the right side and the left, leading to chambers in the rest of the building. At the further end of the hall, on the left, was another small door, opposite to which there appeared the first four steps of a staircase, which wound away with a turn to apartments above. There was a high window over the principal entrance, from which the room received, in the daytime, its only light; and about half way up the chamber, on the left hand, was the wide chimney and hearth, with seats on either side, and two vast bars of iron between them for burning wood. In the midst of the pavement stood a long table, with some benches, one or two stools and a great chair, in which the master of the mansion seated himself at the time of meals; but the hall presented no other ornament whatever, except a number of lances, bows, cross-bows, axes, maces, and other offensive arms, which were ranged with some taste against the walls. The armoury was in another part of the house, and these weapons seemed only admitted here to be ready in case of immediate need; for those were times in which men did not always know how soon the hand might be called upon to defend the head.
When Richard of Woodville and his companion entered, some six or seven large logs, I might almost call them trees, were blazing on the hearth; and, in addition to the glare they afforded, a sconce of seven burners above the chimney shed a full light upon the party assembled round the fire. That party was very numerous, for several maids and retainers, of whom it may not be necessary to speak more particularly, were scattered round the principal personages, busy with such occupations for the evening as were common in a rude age, when intellectual pursuits were very little cultivated.
The group in front, however, deserves more attention, consisting of seven persons, most of whom we shall have to speak of more than once in the course of these pages. In the seat within the chimney, just opposite the door, sat the master of the mansion, a tall powerful old man, who had seen many a battle-field in his day, during that and the preceding reign, and had borne away the marks of hard blows upon his face. He was spare and large boned in form, with his hair and beard very nearly white; but he was hale and florid withal, and his countenance, though strongly marked, had an expression of kindness and good humour, not at all incompatible with the indications of a quick and fiery temper, which were to be discovered in the sparkle of his undimmed blue eye, and the sudden contraction of his brow when anything surprised him. The seat on the other side of the fire was not visible from the door by which the two wayfarers entered; but beyond the angle of the chimney, protruded into the light, the arm, shoulder, and part of the head of another tall old man, apparently clothed in the grey gown of some monastic order.
On the left of Sir Philip Beauchamp was seated a young lady, perhaps eighteen or nineteen years of age, with her arm resting on his knee, and her head and figure bent gracefully towards him. Her hair was as black as jet, her skin soft and clear, and her complexion somewhat pale, though a slight tinge of the rose might be seen upon her cheek. Her eyes, like her father's, were of a deep clear blue, though the long black fringes that bordered her eyelids in a long sweeping line, made them, at a distance, look as dark as her hair. She seemed neither above nor below the ordinary height of woman; and her whole figure, though by no means thin, was slim and delicate. The small exquisite foot and rounded ancle inclining gracefully towards the fire, were displayed by the posture in which she had placed herself; and the hand that rested on her father's knee, with long fingers tapering to the point, showed in every line the high Norman blood of her race.
Next to Isabel Beauchamp, the only daughter of the old knight, was another lady, perhaps a year younger. She was in several respects strikingly contrasted to her fair companion, though hardly less beautiful. Her hair was of a light glossy brown, catching a warm gleam wherever the light fell upon it, as fine as silk new spun from the cone, yet curling in large bunches wherever it could escape from the bands that confined it. Her complexion was fair and glowing; her cheek warm with health, and her skin as soft and smooth as that of a child. To look upon her at a little distance, one would have expected to find the merry grey or blue eye, so often seen in the pretty village maid; but hers was dark brown, large, and full, and soft, yet with a laughing light therein, that seemed to speak a buoyant and a happy heart. In form she was somewhat taller than the other; but though her waist looked as if it would have required no giant's hand to span it round, yet there was that sort of full and graceful sweep in all the lines, which painters and statuaries, I believe, call contour. Nought but the tip of one foot was seen from beneath the long and flowing petticoat then in fashion; but even from that, one might judge that nothing much more neat and small ever beat the turf, except amongst the elves of fairy land. Her hand rested upon a frame of embroidery, at which she had been working, and her head was slightly bent forward, as if to hear something said by the good Abbot of the convent, who sat opposite to his brother, in the seat within the chimney. But between her and him was another group, consisting of three persons, which somewhat detached itself from the rest. Two were seated, a lady and a gentleman, and the third was standing with his arms folded on his chest a little behind the others.
The backs of these three were turned towards the door by which Woodville and his companions entered; and they were somewhat in the shade, being placed between the lower end of the hall and the light both of the fire and the sconce; but as we are now looking at the picture of the whole, we may as well examine the details before we proceed.
The lady bore a striking resemblance in features, complexion, and form, to Isabel Beauchamp, whom we have already described; and the Lady Catherine might well be taken, as was often the case, for her cousin's sister. She was taller, indeed, though not much; but the chief difference was in the expression of the two countenances. Catherine's wanted all the gentleness, the tenderness, the thoughtfulness, of Isabel's. It could assume a look of playful coquetry, it could seem grave, it could seem joyous; but with each expression there mingled a touch of pride, perhaps, too, of vanity; and a scornful turn of the lip and well-chiseled nostril, as well as a quick flash of the eye, spoke the rash and haughty spirit which too certainly dwelt within her breast.
We are the slaves of circumstances from our cradle; and the mother and the nurse form as much part of our fate as any of the other events which mould our character, guide our course, and lead us to high station, retain us in mediocrity, or plunge us into misfortune. Catherine Beauchamp, like her cousin, was an only child, and an heiress; but her mother had brought large possessions to her father, and with those large possessions an inexhaustible store of pride. She had looked upon herself, indeed, as her husband's benefactor, for he was a younger brother, of small estate; and, after his death, she and a foolish servant had rivalled each other in instilling into her daughter's mind high notions of her own importance. In this, as in many another thing, the mother had proved herself weak; and the spoilt child had early shown her the result of her own folly. She did not live long enough to correct her error, even if she had possessed sense enough to make the effort; and when Catherine came to the house of her uncle, as his ward, her character was too far fixed to render any lessons effectual, but the severe ones of the world. There, then, she sat, beautiful, rich, vain, and haughty, claiming all admiration as her due, and believing that even her faults ought to be admired for her loveliness and her wealth.
Beside her was placed her mother's nearest relation, a distant cousin, named Simeon of Roydon. He was a tall, robust, well-proportioned man, of two or three and thirty years of age, with a quantity of light hair close cut in front, and left long upon the back of the head and over the temples. His features were in general good; and what with youth and health, a florid complexion, fair skin, bright keen eyes, an aquiline nose, somewhat too much depressed, and an air of calm self-importance and courtly ease, he was the sort of man so often called handsome by those who little consider or know in what beauty really consists. Nothing, indeed, that dress could do, was left undone, according to the fashions of the day, to set off his person to the best of advantage. His long limbs were clothed in the light-coloured breeches and hose, without division from the waist to the foot, which were then generally worn by men of the higher class; but so tightly did they fit, that scarce a muscle of the leg might not be traced beneath; and his coat was also cut so close to his shape, that except on the chest, where, perhaps, some padding added to the appearance of breadth, the garment seemed to be but an outer skin. His shoes exhibited points of at least six inches in length beyond the toe; and the sleeves of his mantle, which he continued to wear even in the hall, hung down till they swept the floor. He wore a dagger in his girdle with a jewelled hilt, and a clasp upon his coat with a ruby set in gold; while on his thumb appeared a large signet-ring of a very peculiar fashion and device.
Notwithstanding dress, however, and good features, and a countenance under perfect command, there were certain minute, but very distinct signs, to be perceived by an eye practised in the study of the human character, which betrayed the fact, that his smooth exterior was but a shell containing a less pleasant core. There was a wandering of the eyes, which did not always seem to move in the same orbits; there was an occasional quiver of the lower lip, as if words which might be dangerous were restrained with difficulty; there was a look of keen, eager, almost fierce, inquiry, when anything was said, the meaning of which he did not at once comprehend; and then a sudden return to a bland and sweet expression almost of insipidity, which spoke of something false and hollow. He was talking to Catherine Beauchamp, when Richard of Woodville and Hal of Hadnock entered, in gay tones, often mingling a low laugh with his conversation, and eying his own foot and leg as it was stretched out towards the fire, with an air of great self-admiration and satisfaction.
The figure of the third person, who stood close behind the lady--as if he had come round thither and left vacant a stool which appeared on the other side, to take part in her conversation with Sir Simeon of Roydon--was as tall and finer in all its proportions than that of the knight who sat by her side. His chest was broader; his arms more muscular; the turn of his head, and the fall of his shoulders, more graceful and symmetrical. His dark hair curled short round his forehead, and on his neck; his straight-cut features, of a grave and somewhat stern cast, wore their least pleasing look when in repose; for they wanted but the fire of expression to light them up in a moment, and render them all bright and glowing. His eye, however, the feature which soonest receives that light, had in it a fixed melancholy, which scarcely even left it when he smiled; and now, though he had come round thither to interchange a few words with Catherine, his betrothed wife, and her gay kinsman, Sir Henry Dacre had fallen into thought again, and remained standing with his arms folded on his chest, and his look fixed upon Isabel Beauchamp, as she leaned upon her father's knee. His gaze was intense, thoughtful--I might call it inquiring; but yet it was not rude, for he knew not that his eyes were so firmly fixed upon her. He was buried in his own thoughts; and perhaps the peculiar investigating expression of that look might be accounted for by supposing that he was asking questions, difficult to solve, of his own heart.
Isabel herself did not remark that he was gazing at her, for she was listening to some anecdote of other days which her father was telling. But the old knight did observe the glance of his young friend, and he observed it with pain, yet "more in sorrow than in anger;" for there were some things for which he bitterly grieved, but which could not be amended. He broke off his story for a moment to mutter to himself, "Poor fellow!" and just at that instant his eye lighted upon Richard of Woodville, as the young traveller opened the great door of the hall. His brow contracted while perhaps one might count ten, but was speedily clear again, and he exclaimed, laughing aloud--"Ha! here is Dickon again! I thought he would not go far."
Every one turned round suddenly; and all laughed gaily, except one. But the fair girl with the rich brown hair, sitting next to Isabel Beauchamp, gazed down the hall, with a smile indeed, but with a kindly look gleaming forth through her half-closed, merry eyes.
"Ah, run-away!" cried Isabel Beauchamp, still laughing; "so you have come back?"
"Yes, sweet cousin," replied Richard of Woodville, advancing up the hall with his companion; "but I have a cause--I should have been half way to Winchester else.--Here is a gentleman, sir," he continued, addressing his uncle, "whom I have met seeking the right way, and finding the wrong; and I failed not in promising him your hospitality for the night."
"Right, Richard--you did right!" replied the old knight, raising his tall form from the seat by the fire. "Sir, you are most welcome. Quick, Hugh of Clatford, leave cutting that bow, and speed to the buttery and the kitchen. Bid them bring wine and meat. I pray you, sir, take the seat by the fire."
"Nay, not so, noble sir," replied Hal of Hadnock, in a courteous tone. "I am not one to take the place of venerable years and high renown. Thanks for your welcome, and good fortune to your roof-tree. I beseech you, let me make no confusion. I will place me here;" and he drew a stool from the table somewhat nearer to the fire, and seated himself, while all eyes were fixed upon him.
Richard of Woodville, too, took a better view of his companion than he had hitherto obtained, and that view satisfied him that he had not introduced to his uncle's hall a guest, who, in point of rank and station, at least, was not well deserving of a place therein.
The stranger was, as I have already said, a tall and somewhat slim young man, perhaps four or five and twenty years of age, with black hair and close-shaved beard, keen dark eyes, long and sinewy limbs, and a chest of great width and depth. His features were remarkably fine, his brow wide and expansive, his forehead high, and the whole expression of his countenance noble and commanding. His dress was rich and costly, without being gaudy. His coat of deep brown, covering the hips, like that of a crossbowman, was of the finest cloth, and ornamented with small lines of gold, in a quaint but not ungraceful pattern. Instead of the hood then commonly worn, his head was covered with a small cap of velvet, and one long pennache, or feather, clasped with a large jewel; his dagger and the hilt of his sword were both studded with rubies, and though his riding-boots of untanned leather were cut square off at the toe, instead of being encumbered with the long points still in fashion, over them were buckled, with a broad strap and flap, a pair of gilt spurs, showing that he had seen service in arms, and had won knightly rank. His tight-fitting hose were of a light philimot, or brownish yellow colour, and round the leg, below the knee, was a mark, as if the impression of a thong, seeming to prove that when not in riding attire, he was accustomed to wear shoes so long, that the horns points were obliged to be fastened up by a gilt chain, as was then not unusual. His manner was highly courteous; but it was remarked, that at first he committed what has, in most ages, been considered an act of rudeness, remaining with his head covered some minutes after he entered the hall. But, at length, seeming suddenly to remember that such was the case, he took off his cap, and laid it on the table.
Sir Philip Beauchamp, without asking any question of his guest, proceeded at once to name to him the different persons assembled round the fire; but as we have already heard who they were, it is needless to give a recapitulation here. Richard of Woodville, however, marked or fancied, that as the old knight pronounced the name of Sir Simeon of Roydon, a brief glance of recognition passed between that personage and his companion of the road; but neither claimed the other as an acquaintance, and Woodville said nothing to call attention to what he had observed.
"It will seem scarcely courteous, sir," said the guest, as Sir Philip ended, "not to give you my own name, though you in your hospitality will not ask it; but yet, for the present, I will beg you to call me simply Hal of Hadnock; and ere I go, Sir Philip, to your own ear I will tell more. And now, pray let me not kill mirth, or break off a pleasant tale, or stop a sweet lay; for doubtless you pass the long eves of March as did the knights and dames in our old friend Chaucer's dreams--
'Some to rede old romances, Them occupied for ther pleasances, Some to make verèlaies and laies, And some to other diverse plaies.'"
"Nay, sir," answered the old knight, who had glanced with a smile at his guest's gilded spurs, as he gave himself the name of Hal of Hadnock, "we were but talking of some old deeds of arms, which, doubtless, you in your career have often heard of. As to lays, when my nephew Richard is away, we have but little poesy in the house, except when this sweet ward of mine, Mary Markham, will sing us a gay ditty."
"Not to-night--not to-night!" cried the lady on Isabel Beauchamp's left; "I am not in tune to-night."
Isabel bent her head to her fair companion, and whispered a word which made the blood come warm into Mary Markham's cheek; but Catherine, with a gay toss of her head, and a glance of her blue eye at the handsome stranger, exclaimed--"I love neither lay nor ballad; they are but plain English twisted out of form, and set to a dull tune."
"Indeed, lady!" said the stranger, gazing upon her with an incredulous smile. "I have ever thought that music and verse made sweet things sweeter; and, methinks, even now, were it some tender lay addressed to your bright looks, you would not find the sounds so rude."
A smile passed round the little circle, but did not visit the lip of Sir Henry Dacre; and though Catherine Beauchamp laughed with a scornful smile, it seemed as if she knew not well whether to look upon the stranger's words as kind or uncourteous.
"Ha, Kate! he touched you there," said the old knight. "What think you, Abbot? has not our guest judged our niece aright?"
"I believe it is so with all ladies," answered the Abbot, gravely; "they find the words of praise sweet, and the words of blame bitter, whether it be in song or saying. You men of the world nurture them in such folly. You flatter them too much; so that, like the tongue of a wine-bibber, they can taste nothing but what is high-seasoned."
"Faith, not a whit, reverend lord," cried Hal of Hadnock, gaily; "craving your forgiveness, we deal with them as heaven intended. Fair and delicate in mind and frame, we shelter their persons from all rough winds and storms, as far as may be, and their ears from all harsh sounds. They were not made to cope with the rough things of life; and if they find wholesome exercise for body and soul, good father, in the chase and in the confessional, it is as much as is needed. The Church has the staple trade for truth, especially with ladies; and for any laymen to make it their merchandise would be against the laws of Cupid's realm."
"I fear you speak lightly, my son," said the Abbot, with a good-humoured smile; "but here comes your meal, and I will give it my blessing."
By such words as these, the ice of new acquaintance was soon broken, and, as the guest sat down at the side of the long table, to partake of such viands as his entertainer's hospitality provided for him, the party round the fire separated into various groups. The good master of the mansion approached to do the honours of his board, and press the stranger to his food. Catherine seemed smitten with a sudden fit of affection for her uncle, and placed herself near him, where, with no small spice of coquetry, she sought to engage the attention of the visitor to herself. Sir Henry Dacre remained talking by the fire with Isabel Beauchamp; and, whatever was the subject of their discourse, the faces of both remained grave, almost sad; while, at a little distance, Richard of Woodville conversed in low tones with fair Mary Markham, and their faces presented the aspect of an April sky, with its clouds and its sunshine, being sometimes overshadowed by a look of care and anxiety, sometimes smiling gaily, as if the inextinguishable hopes of youth blazed suddenly up into a flame, after burning low and dimly for a while, under some cold blast from the outward world.
The Abbot had resumed his seat by the fire, and Sir Simeon of Roydon had not quitted his; but the latter, though the good monk spoke to him from time to time, seemed buried in his own thoughts, answered briefly, and often vaguely, and then fell into a reverie again, turning occasionally his eyes upon his fair kinswoman and the stranger with an expression of no great pleasure.
With the old knight and Catherine Beauchamp, in the meanwhile, Hal of Hadnock kept up the conversation gaily, seeming to find a pleasure in so mingling sweet and bitter things together, in his language to the lady, as sometimes to flatter, sometimes to pique her; and thus, without her knowing it, he contrived to put her through all her paces, like a managed horse, till every little weakness and fault in her character was displayed, one after another.
At first, Sir Philip Beauchamp was amused, and laughed at the stranger's merry jests, thinking, "It will do Kate good to hear some wholesome truth from an impartial tongue;" but as he saw that, whether intentionally or not, the words of Hal of Hadnock had the effect of bringing out all the evil points in her disposition to the eyes of his guest, he grew uneasy for his brother's child, and felt all her faults more keenly from seeing her thus expose them, in mere vanity, to the acquaintance of an hour. He saw, then, with satisfaction, his guest's meal draw towards a close, and, as soon as it was done, proposed that they should all retire to rest.
There was some consideration required as to what chamber should be assigned to Hal of Hadnock,--for small pieces of ceremony were, in those days, matters of importance,--but Sir Philip Beauchamp decided the matter, by telling Richard of Woodville to lead the visitor to the rose-tapestry room, and to place a good yeoman to sleep across his door. It was one of the principal guest-chambers of the house; and its selection showed that the good knight judged his nephew's fellow-traveller to be of higher rank than he assumed.
Lighted by a page, Richard of Woodville led the way, and entered with his companion, when they reached the apartment to which they had been directed. Although it was now late, he remained there more than an hour, in conversation deeply interesting to himself, at least.
THE FOREGONE EVENTS.
"Come, Richard of Woodville," said his companion, as soon as they entered the chamber of the rose-tapestry, "let us be friends. You have served me at my need; and I would fain serve you; but I must first know how."
"Faith, sir, that is not easy," answered Woodville, "for I do not know how myself."
"Well, then, I must think for you, Richard," rejoined Hal of Hadnock; "what stays your marriage?"
Woodville gazed at him with some surprise, and then smiled. "My marriage!--with whom?" he asked.
"Nay, nay," answered his new friend, "waste not time with idle concealments. I am a man who uses his eyes; and I can tell you, methinks, all about every one in the hall we have just left."
"Well, stay yet a moment, till we can be alone," replied Woodville; "they will soon bring you a livery of wine and manchet bread."
"In pity stop them," cried Hal of Hadnock; "I have supped so late that I can take no more." But, as he was speaking, a servant entered with a cup of hot wine, and a small roll of fine bread upon a silver plate. As bound in courtesy, the guest broke off a piece of the manchet, and put the cup to his lips; but it was a mere ceremony, for he did not drink; and the man, taking away the rest of the wine and bread, quitted the room.
"Now, Richard, you shall see if I be right," continued Hal of Hadnock. "There is one pretty maid, called Mary Markham, or I heard not your uncle right, whose cheek sometimes changes from the soft hue of the rose's outer leaves, to the deep crimson of its blushing breast, when a certain Richard of Woodville is near; and there is one good youth, called Richard of Woodville, who can whisper sweet words in Mary Markham's ear, while his uncle holds converse with a new guest at a distance."
Woodville laughed, and made no answer; and his companion went on.
"Well, then, there is a fair Lady Catherine, beautiful and witty, but somewhat shrewish withal, and holding her own merits as most rare jewels, too good to be bestowed on ordinary men; who would have a lover, like a bird in a cage, piping all day to her perfections, and would think him well paid if she gave him but one of the smiles or looks whereof she is bountiful to those who love her not: and, moreover, there is one Sir Harry Dacre, a noble knight and true--for I have heard his name ere now--whom I should fancy to be her husband, were it not that----"
"Why should you think them so nearly allied?" asked Woodville.
"Because she gave him neither word nor look," replied Hal of Hadnock. "Is not that proof enough with such a dame?"
"You have read them but too rightly," rejoined Richard of Woodville, with a sigh. "He is not, indeed, her husband, but as near it as may be--betrothed in infancy; a curse upon such doings, that bind together in the bud two flowers that but destroy each other's blossoms as they grow. They are to be wedded fully when she sees twenty years; and poor Dacre, as noble and as true a heart as e'er was known, looks sternly forward to that day, as a prisoner does to the hour of execution; for she has taught him too early, and too well, all those secrets of her bosom which a wiser woman would have hidden."
"He does not love her, that is clear," answered his companion, in a graver tone than he had hitherto used. "Did he never love her?"
"No, not with manly love," replied Richard of Woodville. "I remember well, when we were both boys together, and she as lovely a girl as ever was seen, he used to be proud then of her beauty, and call her his fair young wife. But even then she began the lessons, of which she has given him such a course, that never pale student at Oxford was better indoctrinated in Aristotle, than he is in her heart. Even in those early days she would jeer and scoff at him, and if he showed her any little tenderness, would straightway strive to make him angry; would pretend great fondness for some other--for me--for any one who happened to be near; would give his gifts away; admire whatever was not like him. Oh, then fair hair was her delight, blue eyes were beautiful. She hated him, I do believe, because she was tied to him, and that was the only bond upon her own capricious will; so that she resolved to use him as a boy does a poor bird tied to him by a string, pulling it hither and thither till its little heart beats unto bursting with such cruel tyranny! Had she begun less early, indeed, her power of grieving him would have been greater, for he was well inclined to let affection take duty's hand, and love her if he could. But she herself soon ended that source of torture. She may now play the charmer with whom she will, she cannot wring his heart with jealousy."
"He does not love her, that is clear," repeated Hal of Hadnock, in a still graver tone, "but he may love another."
"Ha!" exclaimed Woodville; "whom think you, sir?"
"Nay," replied his companion, after a pause, "it is not for me, my good friend, to sow suspicious doubts or fears, where I find them not. I do believe Sir Harry Dacre will do all that is right and noble; and I did but mean to say, that his poor heart may know greater tortures than you dream of, if, tied as he is by the act of others, to a woman who will not suffer him to love her, he has met, or should hereafter meet, with one on whom all his best affections can be placed. I say not that he has,--I only say, such a thing may be."
Richard of Woodville gazed down upon the rushes on the floor for several moments with a thoughtful look. "I know of whom you would speak," he said at length; "but I think, in this, you have deceived yourself, sharp as your observation has been. Isabel has been the companion of both from youth; and to her, in early days, Dacre would go for consolation and kindness, when worn out by this cold, vain lady's caprice and perverseness. She pitied him, and soothed; and often have I heard her try to soften Catherine's conduct, making it seem youthful folly and high spirits; and trying to take the venom from the wound. He looks upon Isabel as a sister--nothing more--I think."
Hal of Hadnock shook his head; and then suddenly turned to another subject. "Well," he said, "you will not deny that I am right in some things, and, therefore, as I am in your secret, whether you will or not, now answer me my question--What stays your marriage?"
"Good sooth, I cannot tell," replied Richard of Woodville; "the truth is, this dear lovely girl came here some years gone, none knew from whence; but it was my uncle brought her, and ever since he has treated her as a daughter. All have loved her, and I more than all; but day after day went by in sports and pleasures; and, in a full career of happiness, I did not think till yesterday of risking the present by striving to brighten the future. Last evening, however, I said some plainer words than usual. What she replied matters not; but I saw that, afterwards, she was not so gay as usual; and to-day I took a moment, when I thought good Sir Philip was in a yielding mood, and asked the hand of his dear ward--or daughter; for I must not hide from you that men have suspicions, there is blood of the Beauchamps in this same lady's veins. He gave me a rough answer, however; told me not to think of her, and would assign no reason why. I will not say we quarrelled, for I love him too much, and reverence him too much for that; but I said in haste, that if I were not to think of her, I would stay no longer where suing only bred regret; and that I would seek honour, if I could not find a bride. He answered it was the best thing I could do; and so, without more thought than to feed my horse, and bid them all farewell, I put foot in stirrup for my own place hard by West Meon, with the intent of seeking service in some foreign land, as the wars here have come to an end. My good uncle only laughed at me, and told them, as I mounted in the court, that Dickon was out of humour, but would soon find his good spirits again. I did not do so for a long way, however; but, as I went well sure of my lady's grace, I began to take heart after a-while, and resolved that she should hear of me from other shores, till I could claim her, and no one say me nay."
"It was a good resolve," answered his companion; "for in such a case I know not what else could be done. But whither did you intend to bend your steps--to France?"
"Nay, not to France," said Woodville; "I love not the Frenchmen. If our good king, indeed, were again to draw the sword for the recovery of all that sluggish men and evil times have lost of our rightful lands since the Black Prince's death, right willingly would I follow thither to fight against the French, but not serve with them."
"But his royal thoughts are turned to other things," replied Hal of Hadnock; "he still holds the mind, I hear, to take the cross, and couch a lance for the sepulchre."
"That is gone by, I am told," answered Richard of Woodville; "this frequent sickness that attacks him has made him think of other things, men say; but, doubtless, you know better than I do?"
"Nay, I know nought about it," said his fellow traveller; "but it is predicted that he shall die at Jerusalem."
"Heaven send it," exclaimed Woodville; "for if he live till then, his will be a long reign, methinks."
"Amen!" rejoined the other; "but whither thought you, then, to go?"
"Perchance to the court of Burgundy," replied Richard; "or to some of those Italian states, where there are ever hard blows to be found, and honour to be gained by doughty deeds."
"That famous land of Italy is somewhat far from our poor northern isle," answered Hal of Hadnock; "especially for a lover. Methinks Burgundy were best; but, doubtless, since you have come back again, your resolution has been left on the road behind us."
"No, not a whit," cried Woodville; "what I judged best in haste some hours ago, I now judge best at leisure. I have told Mary that I go for her sweet sake, to make me a high name, and with Heaven's blessing I will do it."
"Well, then," answered his new friend, "if such be your determination, I know some noble gentlemen in the court of that same Duke of Burgundy, who may aid your advancement for Hal of Hadnock's sake."
Richard of Woodville smiled, replying, "Doubtless, you do, fair sir; but may I tell them you sent me to them?"
"If you will but wait a day or two," said the other, "I will write them a letter, which you shall take yourself; and you will find that I have bespoke you kind entertainment."
Tysiące ebooków i audiobooków
Ich liczba ciągle rośnie, a Ty masz gwarancję niezmiennej ceny.
Napisali o nas:
Nowy sposób na e-księgarnię
Czytelnicy nie wierzą
Legimi idzie na całość
Projekt Legimi wielkim wydarzeniem
Spotify for ebooks