Boys and Girls from Thackeray
By Kate Dickinson Sweetser
Pictures by GEORGE ALFRED WILLIAMS
William Makepeace Thackeray—the name is dear to all lovers of classic fiction, who have wandered in enchanted lands, following the fortunes of Colonel Newcome, Becky Sharp, Henry Esmond, and a host of other familiar characters created by the great novelist.
To an unusual degree, Thackeray dwells on the childhood and youth of the characters he depicts, lingering fondly and in details over the pranks and pastimes, the school and college days of his heroes and heroines, as though he wished to call especial attention to the interest of that portion of their career.
That Thackeray has so emphasised his sketches of juvenile life, warrants the presentation of those sketches in this volume and as complete stories, without the adult intrigue and plot with which they are surrounded in the novels from which they are taken. The object in so presenting them is twofold: namely, to create an interest in Thackeray's work among young readers to whom he has heretofore been unknown, and to form a companion volume to those already given such a hearty welcome—Boys and Girls from Dickens and George Eliot.
NEW YORK, 1907.
BECKY SHARP AT SCHOOL
CUFF'S FIGHT WITH "FIGS"
GEORGE OSBORNE—RAWDON CRAWLEY
CLIVE AND ETHEL NEWCOME
BOYS AND GIRLS from THACKERAY
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.
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, I believe," 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 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; and the new Viscountess, after walking down the gallery, came back to the lad, took his hand again, placing her other fair hand on his head, saying some words to him which were so kind, so sweet that the boy felt as if the touch of a superior being, or angel, smote him down to the ground, and he 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. 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, who knew for what calling the lad was intended, and adding: "Welcome, kinsman."
"He is saying his prayers to mamma," says the little girl, and my lord burst out into another great laugh at this, and kinsman Harry 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 these 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 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 dependent; 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 a feast was got ready, and guns were fired, and tenants and domestics huzzahed when his carriage rolled into the court-yard of the Hall, no one took any notice of young Henry Esmond, who sat alone in the book-room until his new friends found him.
When my lord and lady were going away from the book-room, the little girl, still holding him by the hand, bade him come too.
"Thou wilt always forsake an old friend for a new one, Trix," says her father 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, lovingly; and 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 him '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 everyone seemed to be there.
Presently, however, as the sun was setting, the little heir was sent howling to bed, while the more fortunate little Trix was promised to sit up for 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.
But the new Viscount Castlewood refused to hear of that, and said, "Thou shalt sup with us, Harry, to-night! Shan't refuse a lady, shall he, Trix?"—and Harry enjoyed the unexpected pleasure of an evening meal with the new lord of Castlewood and his gracious family.
Later, when Harry 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. The next morning he was up and watching long before the house was astir, longing to see that fair lady and her children again; 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 and listened while he told her 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, to which she received brief replies, the substance of which was afterward amplified into certain facts concerning the past of the orphan boy, which it is well to note here and now.
It seemed that in former days, in a little cottage in the village of Ealing, near to London, 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 England. With this old man lived a little lad, who went by the name of Henry Thomas, but who was no other than Henry Esmond. 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 shake his head. 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 new 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 had 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. So he 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 unjust stepmother gave him plenty to eat before he went away, and did not beat him once, but 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 pretended to cry; but Harry thought it was only a sham, and sprung quite delighted upon the horse upon which the lackey helped him. This lackey 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 among French people, and being called the Little Frenchman by other boys on Ealing Green.
The lackey was very talkative 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 patron; 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 that he was to be educated for the priesthood. 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 grand languid nobleman, who sat in a great cap and flowered morning-gown, sucking oranges. He patted Harry on the head and gave him an orange, and directed Blaise to 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 remembered to his life's end the delights of those days. He was taken to see a play, 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 book: sellers' shops on it, looking like a street, and the tower of London, with the Armour, 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, 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 Father Holt took pity on him and gave the child a little bed in his chamber.
His artless talk and answers very likely inclined this gentleman in his favour, for next day Mr. Holt said Harry should ride behind him, and not with the French lackey; 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. The lad so pleased the gentleman 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.
At length, on the third day, at evening, they came to a village on the green with elms around it, 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 anyone, 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 Dr. 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 grey towers, and vanes on them, and windows flaming in the sunshine, and they passed under an arch into a courtyard, 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.
Taking Harry by the hand as soon as they were both descended from their horses, Mr. Holt led him across the court, 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. 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 coloured glass painted of a thousand hues; 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-coloured 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 slippers with red heels; and an odour of musk was shaken out of her garments whenever she moved or quitted the room, leaning on her tortoise-shell stick, little Fury, the dog, barking at her heels, and Mrs. Tusher, the parson's wife, by her side.
"I present to your ladyship your kinsman and little page of honour, 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."
Upon my lady the boy's whole attention was for a time directed. He could not keep his great eyes 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, adding, "Come and kiss my hand, child"; and little Harry Esmond 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 cried 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 on whom this artless flattery was bestowed, for, having gone down on his knee (as Father Holt had directed him, and the fashion then was) and performed his obeisance, she asked, "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."
Harry then 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 Dr. 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 a 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, 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 in after years.
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 looked to the north, and communicated 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 more 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 parlours, and above them the long music-gallery. Before this stretched the garden-terrace, where 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 a wooded height beyond, that is called Cromwell's Battery to this day.
Young Harry Esmond soon 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 neighbouring 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.
Also there came in these times to Father Holt many private visitors, whom, after a little, Henry Esmond had no difficulty in recognising as priests of the Father's order, whatever their dresses (and they adopted all sorts) might be. They were closeted with the Father constantly, and often came and rode away without paying their respects to my lord and lady.
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 the Jesuits, an order founded by Ignatius Loyola, whose members were intimately associated with intrigues of church and state. He told Harry 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 Henry Esmond thought that to belong to the Jesuits was the 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 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 neighbour, came from school for his holiday, and said how he, too; like Harry, was to be bred up for an English priest, and would get a college scholarship and fellowship from his school, 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.
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 humour 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, my Lord Castlewood and Lady Isabella left the country for London, taking Father Holt 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 brain with the great books he found there.
After a while, however, 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 and his wife and children. These had their lodging in the gate-house hard by. with a door into the court. That with a window looking out on the green was the Chaplain's room; and next to this was 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. When Father Holt was at Castlewood little Harry Esmond acted as his familiar 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.
Great public events were happening at this time, of which the simple young page took little count. But one day, before the family went to London, riding into the neighbouring 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 forever!" "Down with the Pope!" "No Popery! no Popery!" 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!"
James the coachman was more afraid of his mistress than of the mob, probably, for he whipped on his horses as he was bidden, and the post-boy that rode with the first pair 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.
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, a great big saddler's apprentice of the town, laughed, and stooped to pick up another potato. The crowd had gathered quite between the horses and the inn door by this time, and the coach was brought to a dead standstill. 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 with a great air of authority). "Make way, and let her ladyship's carriage pass."
The men actually did make way, and the horses went on, my lord walking after them with his hat on his head.
This mob was one of many thousands that were going about the country at that time, huzzahing for the acquittal of seven bishops who had been tried just then, and about whom little Harry Esmond knew scarce anything. The party from Castlewood were on their way to Hexton, where there was a great meeting of the gentry. 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 inn, 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 cruel name, 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.
Very soon after this my lord and lady went to London with Mr. Holt, leaving 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 kings-man, as all the Esmonds were. Harry 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 Sievewright, 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 plenty of protectors for Castlewood inmates in any sort of invasion.
One day at dawn, 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 he and John Lockwood, the porter's son, might go to the pond and see what fortune had brought them. It might have been four o'clock when he heard the door of Father Holt's chamber open. Harry jumped up, thinking for certain it was a robber, or hoping perhaps for a ghost, and, flinging open his own door, saw a light inside Father Holt's room, 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.
"Silentium!" whispered the other; "'tis I, my boy!" holding his hand out, and Harry recognised Father Holt. A curtain was over the window that looked to the court, and he saw that the smoke came from a great flame of papers burning in a bowl 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 mantelpiece 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; "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, but without thinking, at the paper before him; but though he had seen it before, he could not understand a word of it. They burned the papers until scarce any traces of them remained.
Harry had been accustomed to seeing Father Holt in more dresses than one; it not being safe, or worth the danger, for Popish priests to wear their proper dress; so he was 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 a wardrobe, which he usually kept locked, but from which he now took out two or three dresses and wigs of different colours, and a couple of swords, a military coat and cloak, and a farmer's smock, and placed them in the large hole over the mantelpiece 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 Father 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. "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-humoured 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 onto 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 Harry how, by pressing on the base of the window, the whole framework descended into a cavity worked below, from which it could be 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.
Esmond, young as he was, would have died sooner than betray his friend and master, as Mr. Holt well knew; so, then, when 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 later.
The Prince of Orange was then at Salisbury, as young Esmond learned from seeing Dr. Tusher in his best cassock, with a great orange cockade in his broad-leafed hat, and Nahun, 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 Salisbury to pay his duty to his Highness the Prince. 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.
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, where they opened the drawers and 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. To the questions which the gentlemen 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 that time, and looked as innocent as boys of his age.
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 Mrs. Worksop used to tell to the idle little page, who enjoyed the exciting narratives. 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 that she did not believe there was a word of truth in the promises of toleration that Dutch monster made, or a single word the perjured wretch said. My lord and lady being loyal followers of the banished king, 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 character of the people he lived with.
Father Holt came to the Hall constantly, but officiated no longer openly as chaplain. Strangers, military and ecclesiastic—Harry knew the latter, though they came in all sorts of disguises—were continually arriving and departing. My lord made long absences and sudden reappearances, using sometimes the secret window in Father Holt's room, though how often Harry could not tell. He stoutly kept his promise to the Father of not prying, and if at midnight from his little room he heard noises of persons stirring in the next chamber, he turned round to the wall, and hid his curiosity under his pillow until he fell asleep. Of course, he could not help remarking that the priest's journeys were constant, and understanding by a hundred signs that some active though secret business employed him. What this was may pretty well be guessed by what soon happened to my lord.
No garrison or watch was put into Castlewood when my lord came back, but a Guard was in the village; and one or other of them was always on the green keeping a lookout on the great gate, and those who went out and in. Lockwood said that at night especially every person who came in or went out was watched by the outlying sentries. It was lucky that there was a gate which their Worships knew nothing about. My lord and Father Holt must have made constant journeys at night: once or twice little Harry acted as their messenger and discreet aide-de-camp. He remembers he was bidden to go into the village with his fishing-rod, enter certain houses, ask for a drink of water, and tell the good man, "There would be a horse-market at Newbury next Thursday," and so carry the same message on to the next house on his list.
He did not know what the message meant at the time, nor what was happening, which may as well, however, for clearness' sake, be explained here. The Prince of Orange being gone to Ireland, where the King was ready to meet him with a great army, it was determined that a great rising of his Majesty's party should take place in this country; and my lord was to head the force in the Castlewood's county. Of late he had taken a greater lead in affairs than before, having the indefatigable Mr. Holt at his elbow, who was the most considerable person in that part of the county for the affairs of the King.
It was arranged that the regiment of Scots Greys and Dragoons, then quartered at Newbury, should declare for the King on a certain day, when likewise the gentry loyal to his Majesty's cause were to come in with their tenants and adherents to Newbury, march upon the Dutch troops at Reading under Ginckel; and, those overthrown, and their indomitable little master away in Ireland, it was thought that their side might move on London itself, and a confident victory was predicted for the King.
While these great matters were in agitation, one day, it must have been about the month of July, 1600, my lord, in a great horseman's coat, under which Harry could see the shining of a steel breastplate he had on, called the boy to him, and kissed him, and bade God bless him in such an affectionate way as he never had used before. Father Holt blessed him too, and then they took leave of my Lady Viscountess, who came weeping from her apartment.
"My lord, God speed you!" she said, stepping up and embracing my lord in a grand manner. "Mr. Holt, I ask your blessing," and she knelt down for that, whilst Mrs. Tusher tossed her head up.
Mr. Holt gave the same benediction to the little page, who went down and held my lord's stirrups for him to mount—there were two servants waiting there, too—and they rode out of Castlewood gate.
As they crossed the bridge, Harry could see an officer in scarlet ride up touching his hat, and address my lord.
The party stopped, and came to some discussion, which presently ended, my lord putting his horse into a canter after taking off his hat to the officer, who rode alongside him step for step, the trooper accompanying him falling back, and riding with my lord's two men. They cantered over the green, and behind the elms, and so they disappeared.
That evening those left behind had a great panic, the cow-boy coming at milking-time riding one of the Castlewood horses, which he had found grazing at the outer park-wall. It was quite in the grey of the morning when the porter's bell rang, and old Lockwood let him in. He had gone with him in the morning, and returned with a melancholy story. The officer who rode up to my lord had, it appeared, said to him that it was his duty to inform his lordship that he was not under arrest, but under watch, and to request him not to ride abroad that day.
My lord replied that riding was good for his health, that if the Captain chose to accompany him he was welcome; and it was then that he made a bow, and they cantered away together.
When he came on to Wansey Down, my lord all of a sudden pulled up, and the party came to a halt at the cross-way.
"Sir," says he to the officer, "we are four to two; will you be so kind as to take that road, and leave me go mine?"
"Your road is mine, my lord," says the officer.
"Then—" says my lord; but he had no time to say more, for the officer, drawing a pistol, snapped it at his lordship; and at the same moment Father Holt, drawing a pistol, shot the officer through the head. It was done, and the man dead in an instant of time. The orderly, gazing at the officer, looked scared for a moment, and galloped away for his life.
"Fire! Fire!" cries out Father Holt, sending another shot after the trooper, but the two servants were too much surprised to use their pieces, and my lord calling to them to hold their hands, the fellow got away. My lord's party rode on; shortly after midday heard firing, then met a horseman who told them that the regiments declared an hour too soon. General Ginckel was down upon them, and the whole thing was at an end. "We've shot an officer on duty, and let his orderly escape," says my lord. "Blaise," says Mr. Holt, writing two lines on his table-book, one for my lady and one for Harry, "you must go back to Castlewood and deliver these," and Blaise went back and gave Harry the two papers. He read that to himself, which only said, "Burn the papers in the cupboard; burn this. You know nothing about anything." Harry read this, ran upstairs to his mistress's apartment, where her gentlewoman slept near to the door, made her bring a light and wake my lady, into whose hands he gave the other paper.
As soon as she had the paper in her hand, Harry stepped back to the Chaplain's room, opened the secret cupboard over the fireplace, burned all the papers in it, and, as he had seen the priest do before, took down one of his reverence's manuscript sermons, and half burnt that in the brazier. By the time the papers were quite destroyed it was daylight. Harry ran back to his mistress again. Her gentlewoman ushered him again into her ladyship's chamber; she told him to bid the coach be got ready, and that she would ride away anon.
But the mysteries of her ladyship's toilet were as awfully long on this day as on any other, and, long after the coach was ready, my lady was still attiring herself. And just as the Viscountess stepped forth from her room, ready for her departure, young John Lockwood came running up from the village with news that a lawyer, three officers, and twenty or four-and-twenty soldiers were marching thence upon the house. John had but two minutes the start of them, and, ere he had well told his story, the troop rode into the court-yard.
Her gentlewoman, Victoire, persuaded her that her prudent course was, as she could not fly, to receive the troops as though she suspected nothing, and that her chamber was the best place wherein to await them. So her black Japan casket, which Harry was to carry to the coach, was taken back to her ladyship's chamber, whither the maid and mistress retired. Victoire came out presently, bidding the page to say her ladyship was ill, confined to her bed with the rheumatism.
By this time the soldiers had reached Castlewood, and, preceded by their commander and a lawyer, were conducted to the stair leading up to the part of the house which my lord and lady inhabited. The Captain and the lawyer came through the ante-room to the tapestry parlour, where now was nobody but young Harry Esmond, the page.
"Tell your mistress, little man," says the Captain kindly, "that we must speak to her."
"My mistress is ill a-bed," said the page.
"What complaint has she?" asked the Captain.
The boy said, "The rheumatism!"
"Rheumatism! that's a bad complaint," continues the good-natured Captain; "and the coach is in the yard to fetch the doctor, I suppose?"
"I don't know," says the boy.
"And how long has her ladyship been ill?"
"I don't know," says the boy.
"When did my lord go away?"
"With Father Holt?"
"With Mr. Holt."
"And which way did they travel?" asks the lawyer.
"They travelled without me," says the page.
"We must see Lady Castlewood."
"I have orders that nobody goes in to her ladyship—she is sick," says the page; but at this moment her maid came out. "Hush!" says she; and, as if not knowing that any one was near, "What's this noise?" says she. "Is this gentleman the doctor?"
"Stuff! we must see Lady Castlewood," says the lawyer, pushing by.
The curtains of her ladyship's room were down, and the chamber dark, and she was in bed with a nightcap on her head, and propped up by her pillows.
"Is that the doctor?" she said.
"There is no use with this deception, madam," Captain Westbury said (for so he was named). "My duty is to arrest the person of Thomas, Viscount of Castlewood, of Robert Tusher, Vicar of Castlewood, and Henry Holt, known under various other names, a Jesuit priest, who officiated as chaplain here in the late king's time, and is now at the head of the conspiracy which was about to break out in this country against the authority of their Majesties King William and Queen Mary—and my orders are to search the house for such papers or traces of the conspiracy as may be found here. Your ladyship will please give me your keys, and it will be as well for yourself that you should help us, in every way, in our search."
"You see, sir, that I have the rheumatism, and cannot move," said the lady, looking uncommonly ghastly as she sat up in her bed.
"I shall take leave to place a sentinel in the chamber, so that your ladyship, in case you should wish to rise, may have an arm to lean on," Captain Westbury said. "Your woman will show me where I am to look;" and Madame Victoire, chatting in her half-French and half-English jargon, opened while the Captain examined one drawer after another; but, as Harry Esmond thought, rather carelessly, as if he was only conducting the examination for form's sake.
Before one of the cupboards Victoire flung herself down, and, with a piercing shriek, cried, "Non, jamais, monsieur l'officier! Jamais! I will rather die than let you see this wardrobe."
But Captain Westbury would open it, still with a smile on his face, which, when the box was opened, turned into a fair burst of laughter. It contained—not papers regarding the conspiracy—but my lady's wigs, washes, and rouge-pots, and Victoire said men were monsters, as the Captain went on with his search. He tapped the back to see whether or no it was hollow, and as he thrust his hands into the cupboard, my lady from her bed called out, with a voice that did not sound like that of a very sick woman:
"Is it your commission to insult ladies as well as to arrest gentlemen, Captain?"
"These articles are only dangerous when worn by your ladyship," the Captain said, with a low bow, and a mock grin of politeness. "I have found nothing which concerns the government as yet—only the weapons with which beauty is authorised to kill," says he, pointing to a wig with his sword-tip. "We must now proceed to search the rest of the house."
"You are not going to leave that wretch in the room with me," cried my lady, pointing to the soldier.
"What can I do, madam? Somebody you must have to smooth your pillow and bring your medicine—permit me—"
"Sir!" screamed out my lady.
"Madam, if you are too ill to leave the bed," the Captain then said, rather sternly, "I must have in four of my men to lift you off in the sheet. I must examine this bed, in a word; papers may be hidden in a bed as elsewhere; we know that very well, and—"
Here it was her ladyship's turn to shriek, for the Captain, with his fist shaking the pillows and bolsters, at last wrenching away one of the pillows, said, "Look! did not I tell you so? Here is a pillow stuffed with paper. And now your ladyship can move, I am sure; permit me to give you my hand to rise. You will have to travel for some distance, as far as Hexton Castle to-night. Will you have your coach? Your woman shall attend you if you like—and the japan-box?"
"Sir! you don't strike a man when he is down," said my lady, with some dignity; "can you not spare a woman?"
"Your ladyship must please to rise, and let me search the bed," said the Captain; "there is no more time to lose in bandying talk."
And, without more ado, the gaunt old woman got up. Harry Esmond recollected to the end of his life that figure, with the brocade dress under the white nightdress, and the gold-clocked red stockings, and white red-heeled shoes, sitting up in the bed, and stepping down from it. The trunks were ready packed for departure in her ante-room, and the horses ready harnessed in the stable: about all which the Captain seemed to know, by information got from some quarter or other; and whence Esmond could make a pretty shrewd guess in after-times, when Dr. Tusher complained that King William's government had basely treated him for services done in that cause.
And here we may relate, though he was then too young to know all that was happening, what the papers contained, of which Captain Westbury had made a seizure, and which papers had been transferred from the japan-box to the bed when the officers arrived.
There was a list of gentlemen of the county, in Father Holt's handwriting, who were King James's friends; also a patent conferring the title of Marquis of Esmond on my Lord Castlewood and the heirs-male of his body; his appointment as Lord-Lieutenant of the County, and Major-General. There were various letters from the nobility and gentry, some ardent and some doubtful, and all valuable to the men who found them, for reasons which the lad knew little about; only being aware that his patron and his mistress were in some trouble, which had caused the flight of the one and the apprehension of the other by the officers of King William.
The seizure of the papers effected, the gentlemen did not pursue their further search through Castlewood House very rigorously. They only examined Mr. Holt's room, being led thither by his pupil, who showed, as the Father had bidden him, the place where the key of his chamber lay, opened the door for the gentlemen, and conducted them into the room.
When the gentlemen came to the half-burned papers in the bowl, they examined them eagerly enough, and their young guide was a little amused at their perplexity.
"What are these?" says one.
"They're written in a foreign language," says the lawyer. "What are you laughing at, little whelp?" he added, turning round as he saw the boy smile.
"Mr. Holt said they were sermons," Harry said, "and bade me to burn them;" which indeed was true of those papers.
"Sermons, indeed—it's treason, I would lay a wager," cries the lawyer.
"Egad! it's Greek to me," says Captain Westbury. "Can you read it, little boy?"
"Yes, sir, a little," Harry said.
"Then read, and read in English, sir, on your peril," said the lawyer. And Harry began to translate:
"Hath not one of your own writers said, 'The children of Adam are now labouring as much as he himself ever did, about the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, shaking the boughs thereof, and seeking the fruit, being for the most part unmindful of the tree of life.' O blind generation! 'tis this tree of knowledge to which the serpent has led you"—and here the boy was obliged to stop, the rest of the page being charred by the fire, and asked of the lawyer—"Shall I go on, sir?"
The lawyer said, "This boy is deeper than he seems: who knows that he is not laughing at us?"
"Let's have in Dick the Scholar," cried Captain Westbury, laughing, and he called to a trooper out of the window, "Ho, Dick, come in here and construe."
A soldier, with a good-humoured face, came in at the summons, saluting his officer.
"Tell us what is this, Dick Steele," says the lawyer.
"'Tis Latin," says Dick, glancing at it, and again saluting his officer, "and from a sermon of Mr. Cudworth's," and he translated the words pretty much as Henry Esmond had rendered them.
"What a young scholar you are," says the Captain to the boy.
"Depend on't, he knows more than he tells," says the lawyer. "I think we will pack him off in the coach with the old lady."
"For construing a bit of Latin?" said the Captain, very good-naturedly.
"I would as lief go there as anywhere," Harry Esmond said, simply, "for there is nobody to care for me."
There must have been something touching in the child's voice, or in this description of his solitude, for the Captain looked at him very good-naturedly, and the trooper called Steele put his hand kindly on the lad's head, and said some words in the Latin language.
"What does he say?" says the lawyer.
"I said I was not ignorant of misfortune myself, and had learned to succor the miserable, and that's not your trade, Mr. Sheepskin," said the trooper.
"You had better leave Dick the Scholar alone, Mr. Corbett!" the Captain said. And Harry Esmond, always touched by a kind face and a kind word, felt very grateful to this good-natured champion.
The horses were by this time harnessed to the coach; and my Lady Isabella was consigned to that vehicle and sent off to Hexton, with her woman and the man-of-law to bear her company, a couple of troopers riding on either side of the coach. And Harry was left behind at the Hall, belonging, as it were, to nobody, and quite alone in the world. The Captain and a guard of men remained in possession there; and the soldiers, who were very good-natured and kind, ate my lord's mutton and drank his wine, and made themselves comfortable, as they well might do in such pleasant quarters.
After the departure of the countess, Dick the Scholar took Harry Esmond under his special protection, and would talk to him both of French and Latin, in which tongues the lad found that he was even more proficient than Scholar Dick. Hearing that he had learned them from a Jesuit, in the praise of whom and whose goodness Harry was never tired of speaking, Dick, rather to the boy's surprise, showed a great deal of theological science, and knowledge of the points at issue between the Catholic and Protestant churches; so that he and Harry would have hours of controversy together, with which conversations the long days of the trooper's stay at Castlewood were whiled away. Though the other troopers were all gentlemen, they seemed ignorant and vulgar to Harry Esmond, with the exception of this good-natured Corporal Steele, Scholar, although Captain Westbury and Lieutenant Trant were always kind to the lad.
They remained for some months at Castlewood, and Harry learned from them, from time to time, how Lady Isabella was being treated at Hexton Castle, and the particulars of her confinement there. King William was disposed to deal very leniently with the gentry who remained faithful to the old king's cause; and no Prince usurping a crown as his enemies said he did, ever caused less blood to be shed. As for women-conspirators, he kept spies on the least dangerous, and locked up the others. Lady Castlewood had the best rooms in Hexton Castle, and the gaoler's garden to walk in; and though she repeatedly desired to be led out to execution like Mary Queen of Scots, there never was any thought of taking her painted old head off. She even found that some were friends in her misfortune, whom she had, in her prosperity, considered as her worst enemies. Colonel Francis Esmond, my lord's cousin and her ladyship's hearing of his kinswoman's scrape, came to visit her in prison, offering any friendly services which lay in his power. He brought, too, his lady and little daughter, Beatrix, the latter a child of great beauty and many winning ways, to whom the old viscountess took not a little liking, and who was permitted after that to go often and visit the prisoner.
And now there befell an event by which Lady Isabella recovered her liberty, and the house of Castlewood got a new owner, Colonel Francis Esmond, and fatherless little Harry Esmond, the new and most kind protector and friend, whom we met at the opening of this story. My Lord of Castlewood was wounded at the battle of the Boyne, flying from which field he lay for a while concealed in a marsh, and more from cold and fever caught in the bogs than from the steel of the enemy in the battle, died.
In those days letters were slow of travelling, and that of a priest announcing my lord's death took two months or more on its journey from Ireland to England. When it did arrive, Lady Isabella was still confined in Hexton Castle, but the letter was opened at Castlewood by Captain Westbury.
Harry Esmond well remembered the receipt of this letter, which was brought in as Captain Westbury and Lieutenant Trant were on the Green playing at Bowls, young Esmond looking on at the sport.
"Something has happened to Lord Castlewood," Captain Westbury said, in a very grave tone. "He is dead of a wound received at the Boyne, fighting for King James. I hope he has provided for thee somehow. Thou hast only him to depend on now."
Harry did not know, he said. He was in the hands of Heaven, as he had been all the rest of his life. That night as he lay in the darkness he thought with a pang how Father Holt and two or three soldiers, his acquaintances of the last six weeks, were the only friends he had in the great wide world. The soul of the boy was full of love, and he longed as he lay in the darkness there for someone upon whom he could bestow it. Lady Isabella was in prison, his patron was dead, Father Holt was gone,—he knew not where,—Tom Tusher was far away. To whom could he turn now for comradeship?
He remembered to his dying day the thoughts and tears of that long night—was there any child in the whole world so unprotected as he?
The next day the gentlemen of the guard, who had heard what had befallen him, were more than usually kind to the child, and upon talking the matter over with Dick they decided that Harry should stay where he was, and abide his fortune; so he stayed on at Castlewood after the garrison had been ordered away. He was sorry when the kind soldiers vacated Castlewood, and looked forward with no small anxiety to his fate when the new lord and lady of the house,—Colonel Francis Esmond and his wife,—should come to live there. He was now past twelve years old and had an affectionate heart, tender to weakness, that would gladly attach itself to somebody, and would not feel at rest until it had found a friend who would take charge of it.
Then came my lord and lady into their new domain, and my lady's introduction to the little lad, whom she found in the book-room, as we have seen.
The instinct which led Henry Esmond to admire and love the gracious person, the fair apparition, whose beauty and kindness so moved him when he first beheld her, became soon a passion of gratitude, which entirely filled his young heart. There seemed, as the boy thought, in her every look or gesture, an angelic softness and bright pity. In motion or repose she seemed gracious alike; the tone of her voice, though she spoke words ever so trivial, gave him a pleasure that amounted almost to pain. It could not be called love, that a lad of his age felt for his mistress: but it was worship. To catch her glance, to divine her errand and run on it before she had spoken it; to watch, follow, adore her, became the business of his life.
As for my Lord Castlewood, he was good-humoured, of a temper naturally easy, liking to joke, especially with his inferiors, and charmed to receive the tribute of their laughter. All exercises of the body he could perform to perfection—shooting at a mark, breaking horses, riding at the ring, pitching the quoit, playing at all games with great skill. He was fond of the parade of dress, and also fond of having his lady well dressed; who spared no pains in that matter to please him. Indeed, she would dress her head or cut it off if he had bidden her.
My Lord Viscount took young Esmond into his special favour, luckily for the lad. A very few months after my lord's coming to Castlewood in the winter time, little Frank being a child in petticoats, trotting about, it happened that little Frank was with his father after dinner, who fell asleep, heedless of the child, who crawled to the fire. As good fortune would have it, Esmond was sent by his mistress for the boy, just as the poor little screaming urchin's coat was set on fire by a log. Esmond, rushing forward, tore the dress off, so that his own hands were burned more than the little boy's, who was frightened rather than hurt by the accident. As my lord was sleeping heavily, it certainly was providential that a resolute person should have come in at that instant, or the child would have been burned to death.
Ever after this, the father was loud in his expressions of remorse, and of admiration for Harry Esmond, and had the tenderest regard for his son's preserver. His burns were tended with the greatest care by his kind mistress, who said that Heaven had sent him to be the guardian of her children, and that she would love him all her life.
And it was after this, and from the very great love and tenderness which grew up in this little household, that Harry came to be quite of the religion of his house, and his dear mistress, of which he has ever since been a professing member.
My lady had three idols: her lord, the good Viscount of Castlewood,—her little son, who had his father's looks and curly, brown hair,—and her daughter Beatrix, who had his eyes—were there ever such beautiful eyes in the world?
A pretty sight it was to see the fair mistress of Castlewood, her little daughter at her knee, and her domestics gathered around her, reading the Morning Prayer of the English Church. Esmond long remembered how she looked and spoke, kneeling reverently before the sacred book, the sun shining upon her golden hair until it made a halo round about her, a dozen of the servants of the house kneeling in a line opposite their mistress. For a while Harry Esmond as a good papist kept apart from these mysteries, but Dr. Tusher, showing him that the prayers read were those of the Church of all ages, he came presently to kneel down with the rest of the household in the parlour; and before a couple of years my lady had made a thorough convert. Indeed, the boy loved her so much that he would have subscribed to anything she bade him at that time, and the happiest period of all his life was this: when the young mother, with her daughter and son, and the orphan lad whom she protected, read and worked and played, and were children together.
But as Esmond grew, and observed for himself, he found much to read and think of outside that fond circle of kinsfolk. He read more books than they cared to study with him; was alone in the midst of them many a time, and passed nights over labours, useless perhaps, but in which they could not join him. His dear mistress divined his thoughts with her usual jealous watchfulness of affection; began to forebode a time when he would escape from his home nest; and at his eager protestations to the contrary, would only sigh and shake her head, knowing that some day her predictions would come true.
Meanwhile evil fortune came upon the inmates of Castlewood Hall; brought thither by no other than Harry himself. In those early days, before Lady Mary Wortley Montague brought home the custom of inoculation from Turkey, smallpox was considered, as indeed it was, the most dreadful scourge of the world. The pestilence would enter a village and destroy half its inhabitants. At its approach not only the beautiful, but the strongest were alarmed, and those fled who could.
One day in the year 1694 Dr. Tusher ran into Castlewood House with a face of consternation, saying that the malady had made its appearance in the village, that a child at the Inn was down with the smallpox.
Now there was a pretty girl at this Inn, Nancy Sievewright, the blacksmith's daughter, a bouncing, fresh-looking lass, with whom Harry Esmond in his walks and rambles often happened to fall in; or, failing to meet her, he would discover some errand to be done at the blacksmith's, or would go to the Inn to find her.
When Dr. Tusher brought the news that smallpox was at the Inn, Henry Esmond's first thought was of alarm for poor Nancy, and then of disquiet for the Castlewood family, lest he might have brought this infection to them; for the truth is, that Mr. Harry had been sitting that day for an hour with Nancy Sievewright, holding her little brother, who had complained of headache, on his knee; and had also since then been drawing pictures and telling stories to little Frank Castlewood, who had occupied his knee for an hour after dinner, and was never tired of Henry's tales of soldiers and horses. As luck would have it, Beatrix had not that evening taken her usual place, which generally she was glad enough to take, upon her tutor's lap. For Beatrix, from the earliest time, was jealous of every caress which was given to her little brother Frank. She would fling away even from her mother's arms if she saw Frank had been there before her; she would turn pale and red with rage if she caught signs of affection between Frank and his mother; would sit apart and not speak for a whole night, if she thought the boy had a better fruit or a larger cake than hers; would fling away a ribbon if he had one too; and from the earliest age, sitting up in her little chair by the great fireplace opposite to the corner where Lady Castlewood commonly sat at her embroidery, would utter childish sarcasm about the favour shown to her brother. These, if spoken in the presence of Lord Castlewood, tickled and amused his humour; he would pretend to love Frank best, and dandle and kiss him, and roar with laughter at Beatrix's jealousy.
So it chanced that upon this very day, when poor Harry Esmond had had the blacksmith's son, and the peer's son, alike upon his knee, little Beatrix had refused to take that place, seeing it had been occupied by her brother, and, luckily for her, had sat at the further end of the room away from him, playing with a spaniel dog which she had—for which by fits and starts she would take a great affection—and talking at Harry Esmond over her shoulder, as she pretended to caress the dog, saying that Fido would love her, and she would love Fido and no one but Fido all the rest of her life.
When, then, Dr. Tusher brought the news that the little boy at the Inn was ill with the smallpox, poor Harry Esmond felt a shock of alarm, not so much for himself as for little Frank, whom he might have brought into peril. Beatrix, who had by this time pouted sufficiently (and who, whenever a stranger appeared, began from infancy almost to play off little graces to catch his attention), her brother being now gone to bed, was for taking her place upon Esmond's knee: for though the Doctor was very attentive to her, she did not like him because he had thick boots and dirty hands (the pert young miss said), and because she hated learning the catechism.
But as she advanced toward Esmond, he started back, and placed the great chair on which he was sitting between him and her—saying in French to Lady Castlewood, "Madam, the child must not approach me; I must tell you that I was at the blacksmith's to-day, and had his little boy upon my lap."
"Where you took my son afterwards!" Lady Castlewood cried, very angry, and turning red. "I thank you, sir, for giving him such company. Beatrix," she continued in English, "I forbid you to touch Mr. Esmond. Come away, child—come to your room. Come to your room—I wish your reverence good-night"—this to Dr. Tusher—adding to Harry: "and you, sir, had not you better go back to your friends at the Inn?"
Her eyes, ordinarily so kind, darted flashes of anger as she spoke; and she tossed up her head with the mien of a Princess, adding such words of reproach and indignation that Harry Esmond, to whom she had never once before uttered a syllable of unkindness, stood for some moments bewildered with grief and rage at the injustice of her reproaches. He turned quite white from red, and answered her in a low voice, ending his little speech with these words, addressed to Lord Castlewood: "Heaven bless you and yours for your goodness to me. I have tired her ladyship's kindness out, and I will go;" and sinking down on his knee, took the rough hand of his benefactor and kissed it.
Here my lady burst into a flood of tears, and quitted the room, as my lord raised up Harry Esmond from his kneeling posture, put his broad hand on the lad's shoulder, and spoke kindly to him. Then, suddenly remembering that Harry might have brought the infection with him, he stepped back suddenly, saying, "Keep off, Harry, my boy; there is no good in running into the wolf's jaws, you know!"
My lady, who had now returned to the room, said: "There is no use, my lord. Frank was on his knee as he was making pictures, and was running constantly from Henry to me. The evil is done, if any."
"Not with me!" cried my lord. "I've been smoking, and it keeps off infection, and as the disease is in the village, plague take it, I would have you leave it. We'll go to-morrow to Wolcott."
"I have no fear, my lord," said my lady; "it broke out in our house when I was an infant, and when four of my sisters had it at home, two years before our marriage, I escaped it."
"I won't run the risk," said my lord; "I am as bold as any man, but I'll not bear that."
"Take Beatrix with you and go," said my lady. "For us the mischief is done."
Then my lord, calling away Tusher, bade him come to the oak parlour and have a pipe. When my lady and Harry Esmond were alone there was a silence of some moments, after which her ladyship spoke in a hard, dry voice of her objections to his intimacy with the blacksmith's daughter, and she added, "Under all the circumstances I shall beg my lord to despatch you from this house as quick as possible; and will go on with Frank's learning as well as I can. I owe my father thanks for a little grounding, and you, I am sure, for much that you have taught me. And—I wish you a good-night."
And with this she dropped a stately curtsy, and, taking her candle, went away through the tapestry door which led to her apartments. Esmond stood by the fireplace, blankly staring after her. Indeed, he scarce seemed to see until she was gone; and then her image was impressed upon him, and remained forever fixed upon his memory. He saw her retreating, the taper lighting up her marble face, her scarlet lip quivering, and her shining golden hair. He went to his own room, and to bed, where he tried to read, as his custom was; but he never knew what he was reading. And he could not get to sleep until daylight, and woke with a violent headache, and quite unrefreshed.
He had brought the contagion with him from the Inn, sure enough, and was presently laid up with the smallpox, which spared the Hall no more than it did the cottage.
When Harry Esmond passed through the crisis of that malady, and returned to health again, he found that little Frank Esmond had also suffered and rallied after the disease, and that Lady Castlewood was down with it, with a couple more of the household. "It was a Providence, for which we all ought to be thankful," Dr. Tusher said, "that my lady and her son were spared, while death carried off the poor domestics of the house;" and he rebuked Harry for asking in his simply way, for which we ought to be thankful; that the servants were killed or the gentlefolk were saved? Nor could young Esmond agree with the Doctor that the malady had not in the least impaired my lady's charms, for Harry thought that her ladyship's beauty was very much injured by the smallpox. When the marks of the disease cleared away, they did not, it is true, leave scars on her face, except one on her forehead, but the delicacy of her complexion was gone, her eyes had lost their brilliancy and her face looked older. When Tusher vowed and protested that this was not so, in the presence of my lady, the lad broke out impulsively, and said, "It is true; my mistress is not near so handsome as she was!" On which poor Lady Castlewood gave a rueful smile, and a look into a little glass she had, which showed her, I suppose, that what the stupid boy said was only too true, for she turned away from the glass, and her eyes filled with tears.
The sight of these on the face of the lady whom he loved best filled Esmond's heart with a soft of rage of pity, and the young blunderer sank down on his knees and besought her to pardon him, saying that he was a fool and an idiot, that he was a brute to make such a speech, he, who caused her malady; and Dr. Tusher told him that he was a bear indeed, and a bear he would remain, after which speech poor young Esmond was so dumb-stricken that he did not even growl.
"He is my bear, and I will not have him baited, Doctor," my lady said, patting her hand kindly on the boy's head, as he was still kneeling at her feet. "How your hair has come off!—and mine, too," she added, with another sigh.
"Madam, you have the dearest, and kindest, and sweetest face in the world, I think," the lad said.
"Will my lord think so when he comes back?" the lady asked with a sigh, and another look at her glass. Then turning to her young son she said, "Come, Frank, come, my child. You are well, praised be Heaven. Your locks are not thinned by this dreadful smallpox; nor your poor face scarred—is it, my angel?"
Frank began to shout and whimper at the idea of such a misfortune, for from the very earliest time the young lord had been taught by his mother to admire his own beauty; and esteemed it very highly.
At length, when the danger was quite over, it was announced that my lord and Beatrix would return. Esmond well remembered the day. My lady was in a flurry of fear. Before my lord came she went into her room, and returned from it with reddened cheeks. Her fate was about to be decided. Would my lord—who cared so much for physical perfection—find hers gone, too? A minute would say. She saw him come riding over the bridge, clad in scarlet, and mounted on his grey hackney, his little daughter beside him, in a bright riding dress of blue, on a shining chestnut horse. My lady put her handkerchief to her eyes, and withdrew it, laughing hysterically. She ran to her room again, and came back with pale cheeks and red eyes, her son beside her, just as my lord entered, accompanied by young Esmond, who had gone out to meet his protector, and to hold his stirrup as he descended from horseback.
"What, Harry boy!" he exclaimed good-naturedly, "you look as gaunt as a greyhound. The smallpox hasn't improved your beauty, and you never had too much of it—ho!"
And he laughed and sprang to the ground, looking handsome and red, with a jolly face and brown hair. Esmond, kneeling again, as soon as his patron had descended, performed his homage, and then went to help the little Beatrix from her horse.
"Fie! how yellow you look," she said; "and there are one, two red holes in your face;" which indeed was very true, Harry Esmond's harsh countenance bearing as long as he lived the marks of the disease.
My lord laughed again, in high good-humour, exclaiming with one of his usual oaths, "The little minx sees everything. She saw the dowager's paint t'other day, and asked her why she wore that red stuff—didn't you, Trix? And the Tower; and St. James's; and the play; and the Prince George; and the Princess Ann—didn't you, Trix?"
"They are both very fat, and smelt of brandy," the child said.
Papa roared with laughing.
"Brandy!" he said. "And how do you know, Miss Pert?"
"Because your lordship smells of it after supper, when I kiss you before I go to bed," said the young lady, who indeed was as pert as her father said, and looked as beautiful a little gipsy as eyes ever gazed on.
"And now for my lady," said my lord, going up the stairs, and passing alone under the tapestry curtain that hung before the drawing-room door. Esmond always remembered that noble figure, handsomely arrayed in scarlet. Within the last few months he himself had grown from a boy to be a man, and with his figure his thoughts had shot up, and grown manly.
After her lord's return, Harry Esmond watched my lady's countenance with solicitous affection, and noting its sad, depressed look realised that there was a marked change in her. In her eagerness to please her husband she practised a hundred arts which had formerly pleased him, charmed him, but in vain. Her songs did not amuse him, and she hushed them and the children when in his presence. Her silence annoyed him as much as her speech; and it seemed as if nothing she could do or say could please him. But for Harry Esmond his benefactress' sweet face had lost none of its charms. It had always the kindest of looks and smiles for him; not so gay and artless perhaps as those which Lady Castlewood had formerly worn, but out of her griefs and cares, as will happen when trials fall upon a kindly heart, grew up a number of thoughts and virtues which had never come into existence, had not her sorrow given birth to them.
When Lady Castlewood found that she had lost the freshness of her husband's admiration, she turned all her thoughts to the welfare of her children, learning that she might teach them, and improving her many natural gifts and accomplishments that she might impart them. She made herself a good scholar of French, Italian, and Latin. Young Esmond was house-tutor under her or over her, as it might happen, no more having been said of his leaving Castlewood since the night before he came down with the smallpox. During my lord's many absences these school days would go on uninterruptedly: the mother and daughter learning with surprising quickness, the latter by fits and starts only, as suited her wayward humour. As for the little lord, it must be owned that he took after his father in the matter of learning, liked marbles and play and sport best, and enjoyed marshalling the village boys, of whom he had a little court; already flogging them, and domineering over them with a fine imperious spirit that made his father laugh when he beheld it, and his mother fondly warn him. Dr. Tusher said he was a young nobleman of gallant spirit; and Harry Esmond, who was eight years his little lordship's senior, had hard work sometimes to keep his own temper, and hold his authority over his rebellious little chief.
Indeed, "Mr. Tutor," as my lady called Esmond, had now business enough on his hands in Castlewood house. He had his pupils, besides writing my lord's letters, and arranging his accounts for him, when these could be got from his indolent patron.