A TALE OF OTHER TIMES
BY MRS. SHERWOOD.
* * * * *
It was during the last century, and before the spirit of revolution had effected any change in the manners of our forefathers, that the events took place, which are about to be recorded in this little volume.
At that period there existed in the wild border country, which lies between England and Scotland, an ancient castle, of which only one tower, a few chambers in the main building, certain offices enclosed in high buttressed walls, and sundry out-houses hanging as it were on those walls, yet remained. This castle had once been encircled by a moat which had been suffered to dry itself up, though still the little stream which used to fill it when the dams were in repair, murmured and meandered at the bottom of the hollow, and fed the roots of many a water plant and many a tree whose nature delights in dank and swampy soils. The verdure, however, which encircled this ancient edifice, added greatly to the beauty, when seen over the extent of waste and wild in which it stood. There can be no doubt but that the ancient possessors of this castle, which, from the single remaining barrier, and the name of the family, was called Dymock's tower, had been no other than strong and dangerous free-booters, living on the plunder of the neighbouring kingdom of Scotland. Every one knows that a vast extent of land, waste or at best but rudely cultivated, had once belonged to the Lords of Dymock; but within a few years this family had fallen from affluence, and were at length so much reduced, that the present possessor could hardly support himself in any thing like the state in which he deemed it necessary for his father's son to live. Mr. Dymock was nearly thirty years of age, at the time our history commences; he had been brought up by an indolent father, and an aunt in whom no great trusts had been vested, until he entered his teens, at which time he was sent to Edinburgh to attend the classes in the college; and there, being a quick and clever young man, though without any foundation of early discipline, or good teaching, and without much plain judgment or common sense, he distinguished himself as a sort of genius.
One of the most common defects in the minds of those who are not early subjected to regular discipline is, that they have no perseverance; they begin one thing, and another thing, but never carry anything on to any purpose, and this was exactly the case with Mr. Dymock. Whilst he was in Edinburgh he had thought that he would become an author; some injudicious persons told him that he might succeed in that way, and he began several poems, and two plays, and he wrote parts of several treatises on Mathematics, and Physics, and Natural History; the very titles of these works sound clever, but they were never finished. Dymock was nearly thirty when his father died; and when he came to reside in the tower, his mind turned altogether to a new object, and that was cultivating the ground, and the wild commons and wastes all around him: and if he had set to work in a rational way he might have done something, but before he began the work he must needs invent a plough, which was to do wonderful things, and, accordingly, he set to work, not only to invent this plough, but to make it himself, or rather to put it together himself, with the help of a carpenter and blacksmith in the neighbourhood. But before we introduce the old blacksmith, who is a very principal person in our story, we must describe the way in which Mr. Dymock lived in his tower.
His aunt, Mrs. Margaret Dymock, was his housekeeper, and so careful had she always been, for she had kept house for her brother, the late laird, that the neighbours said she had half-starved herself, in order to keep up some little show of old hospitality. In truth, the poor lady was marvellously thin, and as sallow and gaunt as she was thin. Some old lady who had stood for her at the font, in the reign of Charles the Second, had, at her death, left her all her clothes, and these had been sent to Dymock's tower in several large chests. Mrs. Margaret was accordingly provided for, for life, with the addition of a little homespun linen, and stockings of her own knitting; but, as she held it a mighty piece of extravagance to alter a handsome dress, she wore her godmother's clothes in the fashion in which she found them, and prided herself not a little in having silks for every season of the year. Large hoops were worn in those days, and long ruffles, and sacks short and long, and stomachers, and hoods, and sundry other conceits, now never thought of; but Mrs. Margaret thought that all these things had a genteel appearance, and showed that those who bought them and those who inherited them had not come of nothing.
Mrs. Margaret, however, never put any of these fine things on, till she had performed her household duties, looked into every hole and corner in the offices, overlooked the stores, visited the larder, scullery and hen-yard, weighed what her three maids had spun the day before, skimmed the milk with her own hands, gathered up the candle ends, and cut the cabbage for the brose; all which being done, and the servants' dinner seen to, and it must be confessed, it was seldom that they had a very sumptuous regale, she dressed herself as a lady should be dressed, and sate down to her darning, which was her principal work, in the oval window in the chief room in the castle. Darning, we say, was her principal work, because there was scarcely an article in the house which she did not darn occasionally, from the floor-cloth to her own best laces, and, as money was seldom forthcoming for renewing any of the finer articles in the house capable of being darned, no one can say what would have been the consequence, if Mrs. Margaret had been divested of this darning propensity.
How the old lady subsisted herself is hardly known, for it often happened that the dinner she contrived for her nephew, was barely sufficient for him, and although on these occasions she always managed to seem to be eating, yet had Mr. Dymock had his eyes about him, he could not but have seen that she must often have risen from the table, after having known little more than the odour of the viands. Nothing, however, which has been said of Mrs. Margaret Dymock goes against that which might be said with truth, that there was a fund of kindness in the heart of the venerable spinster, though it was sometimes choked up and counteracted by her desire to make a greater appearance than the family means would allow.
Besides the three maids in the kitchen, there were a man and a boy without doors, two or three lean cows, a flock of sheep which were half starved on the moor, a great dog, and sundry pigs and fowls living at large about the tower; and, to crown our description, it must be added, that all the domestic arrangements which were beyond the sphere of Mrs. Margaret were as ill managed as those within her sphere were capitally well conducted; however, as Mr. Dymock said to her one day when she ventured to expostulate with him on this subject, "Only have a little patience, my good aunt, when I have completed what I am now about, for instance my plough, you will see how I will arrange every thing. I cannot suffer these petty attentions and petty reforms to occupy me just now; what I intend to do will be done in a large way; I mean not only to repair but to restore the castle, to throw the whole of my lands to the north into a sheep-walk, to plant the higher points, and to convert the south lands into arable. But my first object is the plough, and that must be attended to, before everything else; the wood-work is all complete, but a little alteration must be made in the coulter, and after all, I apprehend I must do it myself, as old Shanty is as stupid as his own hammer."
Mrs. Margaret hinted that every man had not the ingenuity of her nephew; adding, however, that old Shanty was as worthy and God-fearing a man as any on the moor.
"I do not deny it," replied Mr. Dymock, "but what has worth and God-fearing to do with my plough. I have been trying in vain to make him understand what I want done, and am come to the resolution of going myself, taking off my coat, and working with him; I should make a better blacksmith in a week, than he has in forty years."
Mrs. Margaret lifted up her hands and eyes, and then fetching a deep sigh, "That I should have lived to hear that," she exclaimed; "the last representative of the house of Dymock proposing to work at a blacksmith's forge!"
"And why not? Mrs. Margaret," replied the nephew, "does a gentleman lower himself when he works merely for recreation, and not for sordid pelf; you have heard of Peter the Great?"
"Bless me, nephew," replied the spinster, bridling, "where do you think my ears have been all my life, if I never heard of Peter the Great!"
"You know then, that he worked with his own hands at a blacksmith's forge," returned the nephew.
"I know no such thing," said Mrs. Margaret, "and if the Romans say so, I account it only another of their many lies; and I wonder they are not ashamed to invent tales so derogotary to the honour of him they call their head!"
"Pshaw!" said the laird; "I am not speaking of the Pope, but of the Czar of all the Russias!"
"Well! well! Dymock;" returned Mrs. Margaret, "I only wish that I could persuade you from committing this derogation. However, if you must needs work with Shanty, let me beg you to put on one of your old shirts; for the sparks will be sure to fly, and there will be no end of darning the small burns."
"Be assured aunt," said Mr. Dymock, "that I shall do nothing by halves; if I work with Shanty, I shall put on a leathern apron, and tuck up my sleeves."
"All this does not suit my notions," replied Mrs. Margaret: but her nephew had risen to leave her, and there was an end to the argument.
As Mr. Dymock had told his aunt; so he did: he went to Shanty's forge, he dressed himself like the old master himself, and set fairly to work, to learn the mysteries of the trade; mysteries which, however, as far as Shanty knew them, were not very deep.
There has not often been a more ill-arranged and unsettled mind than that of Mr. Dymock; his delight was in anything new, and for a few days he would pursue this novelty with such eagerness, that during the time he seemed to forget every thing else. It was a delicate job, and yet one requiring strength which was needed for the plough. Shanty had told the laird at once, that it was beyond his own skill or strength, seeing that he was old and feeble, "and as to your doing it, sir," he said, "who cannot yet shape a horse-shoe! you must serve longer than a week, before you get that much knowledge of the craft; there is no royal way to learning, and even for the making of a horse-shoe a 'prenticeship must be served, and I mistake me very much if you don't tire before seven days service are over, let alone as many years."
But, Mr. Dymock had as yet served only two days, when one evening a young man, a dark, athletic, bold-looking youth, entered the blacksmith's shed. It was an evening in autumn, and the shed was far from any house; Dymock's tower was the nearest, and the sun was already so low that the old keep with its many mouldering walls, and out-buildings, was seen from the shed, standing in high relief against the golden sky. As the young man entered, looking boldly about him, Shanty asked him what he wanted.
"I want a horse-shoe," he replied.
"A horse-shoe!" returned the blacksmith, "and where's your horse?"
"I has no other horse than Adam's mare," he replied; "I rides no other, but I want a horse-shoe."
"You are a pretty fellow," returned Shanty "to want a horse-shoe, and to have never a horse to wear him."
"Did you never hear of no other use for a horse-shoe, besides protecting a horse's hoof?" replied the youth.
"I have," returned the blacksmith, "I have heard fools say, that neither witch nor warlock can cross a threshold that has a horse-shoe nailed over it. But mind I tell you, it must be a cast shoe."
"Well" said the young man, "suppose that I am plagued with one of them witches; and suppose that I should have bethought me of the horse-shoe, what would you think of me then? What may that be which you are now shaping; why may it not serve my turn as well as another? so let me have it, and you shall have its worth down on the nail."
"Did not I tell you," said Shanty, sullenly, "that it must be a cast shoe that must keep off a witch; every fool allows that."
"Well," said the young man, looking about him, "have you never a cast shoe?"
"No," replied Shanty, "I have none here fit for your turn."
"I am not particular," returned the young man, "about the shoe being an old one; there is as much virtue, to my thinking, in a new one; so let me have that you are about."
"You shall have none of my handiworks, I tell you," said Shanty, decidedly, "for none of your heathenish fancies and follies. The time was when I lent myself to these sort of follies, but, thank my God, I have learned to cast away, aye, and to condemn such degrading thoughts as these. Believe me, young man, that if God is on your side, neither witch nor warlock, or worse than either, could ever hurt you."
"Well," said the young man, "if you will not make me one, will you let me make one for myself?"
"Are you a smith?" said Mr. Dymock, before Shanty could reply.
"Am I a smith?" answered the young man; "I promise you, I should think little of myself if I was not as much above him, (pointing to Shanty, who was hammering at his horse-shoe, with his back towards him,) as the sun is brighter than the stars."
Shanty took no notice of this piece of insolence; but Mr. Dymock having asked the stranger a few more questions, proceeded to show him the job he wanted done to his plough, and from one thing to another, the young man undertook to accomplish it in a few hours, if the master of the shed would permit. Shanty did by no means seem pleased, and yet could not refuse to oblige Mr. Dymock; he, however, remarked, that if the coulter was destroyed, it was no odds to him. The young stranger, however, soon made it appear that he was no mean hand at the work of a blacksmith; he had not only strength, but skill and ingenuity, and in a short time had so deeply engaged the attention of Dymock by his suggestions of improvements to this same plough, that the young laird saw none but him, and allowed the evening to close in, and the darkness of night to cover the heath, whilst still engaged in talking to the stranger, and hearkening to his ingenious comments on the machinery of the plough.
In the meantime, although the sun had set in golden glory, dark and dense clouds had covered the heavens, the wind had risen and whistled dismally over the moor, and a shower of mingled rain and sleet blew into the shed, one side of which was open to the air. It was in the midst of this shower, that a tall gaunt female, covered with a ragged cloak, and having one child slung on her back, and another much older in her hand, presented herself at the door of the shed, and speaking in a broad northern dialect, asked permission to shelter herself and her bairns, for a little space in the corner of the hut. Neither Dymock nor the young man paid her any regard, or seemed to see her, but Shanty made her welcome, and pointing to a bench which was within the glow of the fire of the forge, though out of harm's way of sparks or strokes, the woman came in, and having with the expertness of long use, slung the child from her back into her arms, she sate down, laying the little one across her knee, whilst the eldest of the two children dropped on the bare earth with which the shed was floored, and began nibbling a huge crust which the mother put into his hand.
In the meantime, work went on as before the woman had come in, nor was a word spoken, till Shanty, looking up from the horse-shoe which he was hammering, remarked in his own mind, that he wondered that the little one stretched on the woman's knee, was not awakened and frightened by the noise of the forge; but there the creature lies, he thought, as if it had neither sense or hearing. When this strange thought suggested itself, the old man dropped his hammer, and fixing his eye on the infant, he seemed to ask himself these questions,—What, if the child should be dead? would a living child, drop as that did from the back of the woman on her lap, like a lump of clay, nor move, nor utter a moan, when thrown across its mother's lap? Urged then by anxiety, he left his anvil, approached the woman, and stood awhile gazing at the child, though unable for some minutes to satisfy himself, or to put away the horrible fear that he might perchance be looking at a body without life. Mr. Dymock was acting the part of bellows-blower, in order to assist some work which the young stranger was carrying on in the fire. The lad who generally performed this service for Shanty, had got permission for a few hours, to visit his mother over the Border, Mr. Dymock having told him in all kindness that he would blow for him if needs must. But the fitful light—the alternate glow and comparative darkness which accompanied and kept time with the motion of the bellows, made it almost impossible for the old man to satisfy himself concerning his horrible imagination. He saw that the infant who lay so still on the woman's lap, was as much as two years of age; that, like the woman, it had dark hair, and that its complexion was olive; and thus he was put out in his first notion, that the child might perchance be a stolen one. But the bellows had filled and exhausted themselves many times before his mind was set at rest with regard to his first fearful thought; at length, however, the child moved its arm, and uttered a low moan, though without rousing itself from its sleep; on which Shanty, being satisfied, turned back to his block and his horse-shoe, and another half-hour or more passed, during which the tempest subsided, the clouds broke and began to disappear, and the stars to come forth one by one, pointing out the direction of the heavens to the experienced eye of the night-walking traveller. The woman observing this, arose, and taking the sleeping babe in her arms whilst the other child clung to her cloak, she thanked the blacksmith for the convenience of the shelter which he had given her; when he, with the courtesy of one who, though poor and lowly, had been admitted to high conference with his Redeemer, invited her to stay longer—all night if she pleased,—regretting only that he had nothing to offer her but a bed of straw, and a sup of sowens for the little ones.
"For which," she replied, "I thank you; what can any one give more than what he has. But time is precious to me, this night I must be over the Border; mind me, however, I shall remember you, and mayhap may call again." So saying, she passed out of the shed, almost as much disregarded by Dymock in her going out, as she had been in coming in.
And now, for another hour, the strokes of the hammers of old Shanty and the young stranger might have been heard far over the moor in the stillness of the night, for the wind had entirely died away, and the fitful glare of the forge, still shone as a beacon over the heath. At length, however, the job which the stranger had undertaken was finished, and Dymock, having given him a silver piece, the only one in his pocket, the young man took his leave, saying as he went out, and whilst he tossed the silver in his hand,—"Well, if I have not got what I came for, I have got that which is as good, and in return for your civility, old gentleman," he added, addressing Shanty, "I give you a piece of advice; nail the horse-shoe, which you would not spare to me, over your own door, for I tell you, that you are in no small danger of being over-reached by the very warlock, who has haunted my steps for many a day."
So saying, he went gaily, and with quick step, out of the shed, and his figure soon disappeared in a ravine or hollow of the moor.
In the mean time, Dymock and Shanty stood at the door. The former being full of excitement, respecting the wonderful sagacity of the singular stranger, and the other being impatient to see the master off, as he wanted to shut up his shed, and to retire to the little chamber within, which served him for sleeping apartment, kitchen, and store-room, not to say study, for our worthy Shanty never slept without studying the Holy Word of God.
But whilst these two were standing, as we said, at the door, suddenly, a low moan reached their ears, as coming from their left, where the roof of the shed being lengthened out, afforded shelter for any carts, or even, on occasion, waggons, which might be brought there, for such repairs as Shanty could give them. At that time, there was only one single cart in the shed, and the cry seemed to come from the direction of this cart. Dymock and Shanty were both startled at the cry, and stood in silence for a minute or more, to ascertain if it were repeated. Another low moan presently ensued, and then a full outcry, as of a terrified child. Dymock and Shanty looked at each other, and Shanty said, "It is the beggar woman. She is still skulking about, I will be bound; hark!" he added, "listen! she will be stilling the child, she's got under the cart." But the child continued to screech, and there was neither threat nor blandishment used to still the cries.
Dymock seemed to be so thoroughly astounded, that he could not stir, but Shanty going in, presently returned with a lighted lanthorn, and an iron crow-bar in his hand; "and now," he said, "Mr. Dymock, we shall see to this noise," and they both turned into the out-building, expecting to have to encounter the tall beggar, and with her perhaps, a gang of vagrants. They, however, saw only the infant of two years' old, who had lain like a thing dead on the woman's lap, though not dead, as Shanty had feared, but stupified with hollands, the very breath of the baby smelling of the spirit when Dymock lifted it out of the cart and brought it into the interior shed. Shanty did not return, till he had investigated every hole and corner of his domain, with the crow-bar in one hand, and the lanthorn in the other.
The baby had ceased to cry, when brought into the shed, and feeling itself in the arms of a fellow-creature, had yielded to the influence of the liquor, and had fallen again into a dead sleep, dropping back on the bosom of Mr. Dymock.
"They are all off," said Shanty, as he entered the house, "and have left us this present. We have had need, as that young rogue said, of the horse-shoe over our door. We have been over-reached for once; that little one is stolen goods, be sure, Mr. Dymock,—some great man's child for aught we know,—the wicked woman will not call again very soon, as she promised, and what are we to do with the child? Had my poor wife been living, it might have done, but she is better off! What can I do with it?"
"I must take it up to the Tower," said Mr. Dymock, "and see if my aunt Margaret will take to it, and if she will not, why, then there are charity schools, and poor-houses to be had recourse to; yet I don't fear her kind heart."
"Nor I neither, Mr. Dymock," said Shanty, and the old man drew near to the child, and holding up his lanthorn to the sleeping baby, he said, "What like is it? Gipsy, or Jew? one or the other; those features, if they were washed, might not disgrace Sarah or Rachel."
"The mouth and the form of the face are Grecian," said Dymock, "but the bust is oriental."
Shanty looked hard at his patron, as trying to understand what he meant by oriental and Grecian; and then repeated his question, "Gipsy or Jew, Mr. Dymock? for I am sure the little creature is not of our northern breed."
"We shall see by and bye," said Dymock, "the question is, what is to be done now? I am afraid that aunt Margaret will look prim and stately if I carry the little one up to the Tower; however, I see not what else to do. Who is afraid? But put your fire out, Shanty, and come with us. You shall carry the bantling, and I will take the lanthorn. Mayhap, aunt Margaret may think this arrangement the more genteel of the two. So let it be."
And it was so; old Shanty turned into child-keeper, and the Laird into lanthorn-carrier, and the party directed their steps towards the Tower, and much talk had they by the way.
Now, as we have said before, there was a fund of kindness in the heart of Mrs. Margaret Dymock, which kindness is often more consistent than some people suppose, with attention to economy, especially when that economy is needful; and moreover, she had lately lost a favourite cat, which had been, as she said, quite a daughter to her. Therefore the place of pet happened to be vacant just at that time, which was much in favour of the forlorn child's interests. Dymock had taken Shanty with him into the parlour, in which Mrs. Margaret sat at her darning; and he had suggested to the old man, that he might just as well tell the story himself for his aunt's information, and account for the presence of the infant; and, in his own words, Mrs. Margaret took all very well, and even did not hint that if her nephew had been in his own parlour, instead of being in a place where vagrants were sheltered, he would at all events have been out of this scrape. But the little one had awoke, and had begun to weep, and the old lady's heart was touched, so she called one of the maids, and told her to feed the babe and put it to sleep; after which, having ordered that Shanty should be regaled with the bladebone of a shoulder of mutton, she withdrew to her room to think what was next to be done.
The result of Mrs. Margaret's thoughts were, that come what might, the child must be taken care of for a few days, and must be washed and clothed; and, as the worthy lady had ever had the habit of laying by, in certain chests and boxes piled on each other in her large bed-room, all the old garments of the family not judged fitting for the wear of cottagers, she had nothing more to do than, by the removal of half-a-dozen trunks, to get at a deal box, which contained the frocks, and robes, and other garments which her nephew had discarded when he put on jacket and trousers. From these she selected one of the smallest suits, and they might have been seen airing at the kitchen fire by six o'clock that morning. Hot water and soap were next put in requisition, and as soon as the baby awoke, she was submitted to such an operation by the kitchen fire, as it would appear she had not experienced for a long time. The little creature was terribly frightened when soused in the water, and screeched in a pitiful manner; the tears running from her eyes, and the whole of her small person being in a violent tremor. The maids, however, made a thorough job of it, and scoured the foundling from head to foot. At length Mrs. Margaret, who sat by, directing the storm, with a sheet across her lap and towels in her hand, pronounced the ablution as being complete, and the babe was lifted from the tub, held a moment to drip, and then set on the lap of the lady, and now the babe seemed to find instant relief. The little creature was no sooner placed on Mrs. Margaret's knee, than, by some strange and unknown association, she seemed to think that she had found an old friend,—some faintly remembered nurse or mother,—whom she had met again in Mrs. Dymock, and quivering with delight, she sprang on her feet on the lady's lap, and grasped her neck in her arms, pressing her little ruby lips upon her cheek; and on one of the maids approaching again with some of her clothes, she strained her arms more closely round Mrs. Margaret, and perfectly danced on her lap with terror lest she should be taken away from her.
"Lord help the innocent babe!" said the old lady, "what is come to her?" and Mrs. Margaret's eyes were full of tears; but the good lady then soothed and carressed the babe, and instructed her to sit down on her knees, whilst she directed the servant to assist in dressing her. But no, no, it would not do; no one was to touch her but Mrs. Margaret; and the old lady, drawing herself up, at length said,—"Well, Janet, we must give way, I suppose; it seems that I am to be the favourite; there is something in my physiognomy which has taken the child's fancy; come, hand me the clothes, I must try my skill in dressing this capricious little dame." Mrs. Margaret was evidently pleased by the poor orphan's preference, and whilst she was dressing the infant, there was time to discover that the little child was a perfect beauty in her way; the form of her face being oval, the features exquisite, the eyes soft, yet sparkling, and the lips delicately formed. The hair, of raven black, was clustered and curling, and the head set on the shoulders in a way worthy of the daughters of kings; but the servants pointed out on the arm of the infant, a peculiar mark which was not natural, but which had evidently been burnt therein. One said it was a fan, and another a feather; but Mrs. Margaret augured vast things from it, pronouncing that the child surely belonged to some great person, and that no one could say what might be the consequence of kindness shown to such a child.
As soon as Mr. Dymock came down into the breakfast-room, Mrs. Margaret came swimming in with the child in her arms, exclaiming, "A pretty piece of work you have done for me, nephew! I am under a fine servitude now;" and she primmed up her mouth, but her eye laughed,—"little Miss here, chooses to be waited on by me, and me only; and here I am, with nothing to do but to attend on my lady."
"Little Miss," said Mr. Dymock, "what little Miss? who have you got there?"
"Neither more nor less," replied Mrs. Margaret, "than your foundling."
"Impossible!" said Mr. Dymock: "Why, what have you done to her?"
"Merely washed, combed, and dressed her," said Mrs. Margaret; "give me credit, nephew, and tell me what I have brought out by my diligence."
"You have brought out a brilliant from an unfinished stone," exclaimed Mr. Dymock; "that is a beautiful child; I shall have extreme delight in making as much of that fine mind, as you have done with that beautiful exterior."
"Then you do not think of putting her in a foundling hospital or a workhouse, nephew, as you proposed last night?" said Mrs. Margaret, with a smile.
"It would be a folly," replied the nephew, "to degrade such a creature as that;" and he attempted to kiss the baby; but, swift as thought, she had turned her face away, and was clinging to Mrs. Margaret.
The old lady primmed up again with much complacency, "Did I not tell you, nephew, how it was," she said, "nothing will do but Aunt Margaret. Well, I suppose I must give her my poor pussy's corner in my bed. But now her back is turned to you, Dymock, observe the singular mark on her shoulder, and tell me what it is?"
Mr. Dymock saw this mark with amazement:—He saw that it was no natural mark; and at length, though not till after he had examined it many times, he made it out, or fancied he had done so, to be a branch of a palm tree. From the first he had made up his mind that this was a Jewish child; and, following the idea of the palm-tree, and tracing the word in a Hebrew lexicon,—for he was a Hebrew scholar, though not a deep one,—he found that Tamar was the Hebrew for a palm tree. "And Tamar it shall be," he said; "this maid of Judah, this daughter of Zion shall be called Tamar;" and he carried his point, although Mrs. Margaret made many objections, saying it was not a Christian name, and therefore not proper for a child who was to be brought up as a Christian. However, as Mr. Dymock had given up his whim of learning the business of a smith since the adventure which has been so fully related, and had forgotten the proposed experiment of turning up the whole moor round the Tower with his new-fangled plough,—that plough having ceased to be an object of desire to him as soon as it was completed,—she thought it best to give way to this whim of giving the child so strange a name, and actually stood herself at the font, as principal sponsor for little Tamar.
Thus, the orphan was provided with a happy home; nor, as Mrs. Margaret said, did she ever miss the child's little bite and sup. After a few days, the babe would condescend to leave Mrs. Margaret, when required to go to the servants. She would even, when directed so to do, steal across the floor, and accept a seat on Mr. Dymock's knee, and gradually she got very fond of him. Nor was her affection unrequited; he had formed a theory about her,—and it was not a selfish theory, for he never expected to gain anything by her,—but he believed that she was of noble but unfortunate Jewish parentage, and he built this theory on the singular grace and beauty of her person. At all events, he never doubted but that she was a Jewess; and he talked of it, and thought of it, till he was entirely convinced that it was so, and had convinced his aunt also, and established the persuasion in the minds of most persons about him.
If Mr. Dymock was not a genius, he had all the weaknesses commonly attributed to genius, and, in consequence, was as useless a being as ever cumbered the ground; yet, he was generally loved, and no one loved him more than Tamar did, after she had got over her first baby fear of him. But Mrs. Margaret, who had no pretensions to genius, was the real benefactor of this child, and as far as the lady was concerned in bringing her up, performed the part of a truly affectionate mother. Her first effort was made to bring the will of the child, which was a lofty one, under subjection to her own; and the next, to give her habits of industry and self-denial. She told her that whatever she might hear respecting her supposed parentage, she was merely a child without pretentions, and protected from motives of love, and of love only; that her protectors were poor, and ever likely to remain so, and that what God required of her, was that when able, she should assist them as they had assisted her in helpless infancy. As to religion, Mrs. Margaret taught her what she herself knew and believed; but her views were dark and incomplete, she saw not half as much of the great mystery of salvation, as had been revealed to Shanty in his hut; yet, the desire of doing right in the sight of God, had been imparted to her, and this desire was a fixed principle, and did not appear to be affected by her want of knowledge. As to forms, Mrs. Margaret had her own, and she was very attentive to them, but she had very small opportunity of public worship, as there was no church within some miles of the Tower. In the meantime, whilst the old lady went plodding on in her own quiet way, teaching the little girl all she knew herself, Mr. Dymock was planning great things by way of instruction for Tamar. He was to teach her to read her native language, as he called the Hebrew, and to give her various accomplishments, for he had dipped into innumerable branches, not only of the sciences, but of the arts; and as he happened to have met with a mind in Tamar which was as rapid as his own, though far more plodding and persevering, the style of teaching which he gave her, produced far richer fruit than could possibly have been expected. But as Rome was not built in a day, neither must it be supposed that good Mrs. Margaret had not many a laborious, if not weary hour before her part of the care necessary to the well-rearing of the child, was so complete that the worthy woman might sit down and expect a small return; for, as she was wont to say, the child could not be made, for years after she could hold a needle, to understand that the threads should not be pulled as tight in darning as in hem stitch, and this, she would say, was unaccountable, considering how docile the child was in other matters; and, what was worst of all, was this,—that the little girl, who was as wild and fleet, when set at liberty, as a gazelle of the mountains, added not unseldom to the necessity of darning, until Mrs. Margaret bethought herself of a homespun dress in which Tamar was permitted to run and career during all hours of recreation in the morning, provided she would sit quietly with the old lady in an afternoon, dressed like a pretty miss, in the venerable silks and muslins which were cut down for her use when no longer capable of being worn by Mrs. Margaret. By this arrangement Tamar gained health during one part of the day, and a due and proper behaviour at another; and, as her attachment to Mrs. Margaret continued to grow with her growth, many and sweet to memory in after-life were the hours she spent in childhood, seated on a stool at the lady's feet, whilst she received lessons of needlework, and heard the many tales which the old lady had to relate. Mrs. Margaret having led a life without adventures, had made up their deficiency by being a most graphic recorder of the histories of others; Scheherazade herself was not a more amusing story-teller; and if the Arabian Princess had recourse to genii, talismans, and monsters, to adorn her narratives, neither was Mrs. Dymock without her marvellous apparatus; for she had her ghosts, her good people, her dwarfs, and dreadful visions of second sight, wherewith to embellish her histories. There was a piety too, a reference in all she said to the pleasure and will of a reconciled God, which added great charms to her narratives, and rendered them peculiarly interesting to the little girl. Whilst Tamar was under her seventh year, she never rambled beyond the moat alone; but being seven years old, and without fear, she extended her excursions, and not unseldom ran as far as Shanty's shed.
The old man had always taken credit to him self for the part he had had in the prosperity of the little girl, and Mrs. Margaret did not fail to tell her how she had first come to the Tower in Shanty's arms; on these occasions the child used to say,—"then I must love him, must not I ma'am?" And being told she must, she did so, that is, she encouraged the feeling; and on a Sunday when he was washed and had his best coat on, she used to climb upon his knees, for she always asked leave to visit him on that day if he did not come up to the Tower, as he often did, to ask for her, and being on his knees she used to repeat to him what she had been learning during the week.
He was very much pleased, when she first read a chapter in the Bible, and then it was that he first opened out to her some of his ideas on religion; which were much clearer and brighter than either Mrs. Margaret's or her nephew's. How this poor and solitary old man had obtained these notions does not appear; he could not have told the process himself, though, as he afterwards told Tamar, all the rest he knew, had seemed to come to him, through the clearing and manifestation of one passage of Scripture, and this passage was COL. iii. 11. "But Christ is all."
"This passage," said the old man, "stuck by me for many days. I was made to turn it about and about, in my own mind, and to hammer it every way, till at length, I was made to receive it, in its fulness. Christ I became persuaded, is not all to one sort of men, and not all to another sort, nor all at one time of a man's life, and not all at another; nor all in one circumstance of need, and not all in another; nor all to the saints and not all to the sinner; nor all in the hour of joy, and not all in the hour of retribution; being ready and able to supply one want, and unwilling to supply another. For," as he would add, "does a man want righteousness? there it is laid for him in Christ; does he want merit? there is the treasure full and brimming over; does he want rest and peace? they are also provided for him; does he want faith? there also is faith prepared for him; but the times and the seasons, these are not given to him to know; and, if confusion and every evil work now prevail, Christ being all, he will bring order out of confusion, when the fulness of the time shall come.
"And so," continued the old man, "when it was given me to see and accept this one passage first, in its completeness, all other parts of Scripture seemed to fall at once into their places; and the prophecies; the beautiful prophecies of future peace and joy to the earth, of the destruction of death and of hell, all opened out to me, as being hidden and shut up in Christ,—for Christ is all; and as I desired the treasure, so I was drawn more and more towards Him who keeps the treasure, and all this," he would add, "was done for me, through no deserts or deservings of my own; for till this light was vouchsafed me, I was as other unregenerate men, living only to myself, and for myself; and more than this," he would say, "were it the Divine will to withdraw the light, I should turn again to be dead and hard, as iron on the cold anvil." In this way, Shanty often used to talk to Mrs. Margaret, and after a while to Tamar; but the old lady for many years remained incapable of entering so entirely as he could wish, into his views of the sufficiency of the Redeemer. She could not give up entirely her notions of the need of some works, not as evidences of the salvation of an individual, but as means of ensuring that salvation, and accordingly she never met with Shanty for many years, without hinting at this discrepancy in their opinions, which hints seldom failed of bringing forward an argument.
When Tamar was about nine years old, Mr. Dymock gave her a dog. Of this creature she was very fond, and always accustomed it to accompany her in her excursions around the Tower. There was on the moor, not many hundred paces from the Tower, a heap of blocks of granite, some of which bore evidence of having been cut with a chisel; but these were almost entirely grown over with saxifrages and other wild plants.
The country people seldom resorted to this place, because they accounted it uncanny, and Mrs. Margaret had several wild tales to tell about it, which greatly interested Tamar. She said, that in the times of papal power, there had been a monastery there, and in that place a covenanter had been murdered; hence, it had been pulled down to the ground, and all the unholy timbers and symbols of idolatry burnt; "and still," she added, "to this day, uncanny objects are seen in that place, and wailings as of souls in woe have also been heard coming from thence; and I myself have heard them. Nay, so short a time ago as the night or two before you, Tamar, were brought a baby to this house, a light was seen there, and unearthly voices heard as coming from thence."
Of course after this, it could not be thought that Tamar should approach this place quite alone, though she often desired to do so; had not Mrs. Margaret told her these stories, she probably might never have had this desire, but there is a principle in human nature, which hankers after the thing forbidden; hence, as St. Paul says, "By the law is the knowledge of sin." We are not defending human nature, which is indefensible, but merely stating facts. Tamar had much desire to visit this mysterious place; and so it happened one day, when she had her dog with her, and the sun was shining, and all about her bright and gay, that she climbed up the little green knoll, and pushing her way through many brambles, furze bushes, and dwarf shrubs, she found herself in the centre of the huge heaps of stones and rubbish, of which she had hitherto seen only the summits, from the windows of the Tower.
But being arrived there, she came to a stand, to look about her, when her dog, to whom Dymock had given the poetical name of Sappho, began to prick up her ears, and snuff as if she scented something more than ordinary, and the next minute, she dashed forward, made her way through certain bushes, and disappeared. Tamar called aloud; a hollow echo re-sounded her voice, but no dog appeared;—again she called,—again she heard the echo, and again she was silent; but she was by no means a timid child; she had been too much accustomed to be alone,—too much used to explore old corners, of which there were multitudes about the Tower, occupied only by owls and bats. She therefore went forward to the place where Sappho had disappeared, and forcing aside the shrubs, she saw before her a low, arched door-way, which, had she understood architecture, she would have known, from the carvings about the posts and lintel, to have been Norman.
She was surprised, indeed, but thinking only of her dog, she called again, and was perfectly amazed at the long, hollow, and deep sound, of the reverberation. She stood still again, holding the bushes aside, and was aware of a rush of damp vapour, blowing in her face.
Sappho, she called again, and the next minute heard an impatient bark, or yelp, from the animal, and another sound, low, deep and muttering, which she could not comprehend.
She was now getting much alarmed and dropping the boughs, took to flight, and she had scarcely cleared the rubbish, when Sappho came scouring after her, jumping upon her as if glad to see her again. She patted her head, saying "My poor Sappho, what have you seen in that dark place? I wish you had a tongue to tell me."
Tamar immediately returned to the Tower, and hastened to tell her adventure to Mrs. Margaret.
"Oh!" said the old lady, "is it so? that reminds me of what I heard my father say, many and many is the year gone by, that there was an old tradition of a secret passage underground from the Monastery to the Tower; but he never knew where the passage came into the Tower. But be it which way it might, it must needs have passed under the moat."
"How strange!" said Tamar; "but when that passage was made, it could not have been secret; many people must have known it, and I wonder, then, how it could have been so entirely forgotten."
"Who shall say how things were done in those days," said Mrs. Margaret; "those times long past, when things uncanny had more power than they have now? But it is not good to talk of such things," added the lady; "and now, Tamar, let that which you have seen to-day never again be mentioned by you; for, as sure as the master should hear of it, he would be for looking into the cavern, and, Heaven knows what he might stir up, if he were to disturb such things as might be found there. I only wish that that the mischief may not be already done!"
But no mischief did occur, at least for a long time, from this mysterious quarter. Tamar did not again visit the place; and in a short time thought no more of the matter.
The happy days of childhood were passing away with Tamar, and sorrow was coming on her patrons, from a quarter which poor Mrs. Margaret had long darkly anticipated; but whilst these heavy clouds were hanging over the house of Dymock, a few, though not very important events intervened.
Mr. Dymock, by fits and snatches, had given such lessons to Tamar as had enabled her to proceed, by her own exertions, in several branches of knowledge quite out of the sphere of Mrs. Margaret.
Amongst these was the history of the Jews, carried on in connection between the New and Old Testament, and afterwards in Christian times, and to these he added certain crude views of prophecy; for he was resolved that Tamar was a Jewess, and he had talked himself into the belief that she was of some distinguished family.
It is no difficult matter to impress young persons with ideas of their own importance; and none are more liable to receive such impressions, than those who, like Tamar, are in the dark respecting their origin.
The point on which Mr. Dymock failed in his interpretations of prophecy, is not unfrequently mistaken, even in this more enlightened age. He never considered or understood, that all prophecy is delivered in figurative language; every prophecy in the Old Testament having first a literal and incomplete fulfilment, the complete and spiritual fulfilment being future. He did not see that the Jews, according to the flesh, were types of the Spiritual Israel; that David was the emblem of the Saviour; and that the universal kingdom promised to the seed of David, was no other than the kingdom of Christ, into which all the children of God will be gathered together as into one fold under one Shepherd. Not seeing this, he anticipated a period of earthly triumph for the Jews, such as an ambitious, worldly man might anticipate with delight; and he so filled the mind of his young pupil with these notions of the superiority of her race, that it is a miracle that he did not utterly ruin her. As it was, she counted herself greatly superior to all about her, and was much hurt and offended when old Shanty represented the simple truth to her, telling her, that even were she the lineal descendant of Solomon himself, she could have no other privilege than that of the lowest Gentile who has obtained a new birth-right in the Saviour of mankind; "for," said he, "under the Gospel dispensation there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek,—the same Lord over all, is rich unto all that call upon him," Rom. x. 12.
It did not, however, suit Tamar to adopt these truths at the present time; and as Shanty could not succeed with her, he took the liberty of speaking to Mr. Dymock on the subject.
"Why do you fill the young girl's mind, Dymock," said he, "with such fancies as you do? But, leaving her alone, let us speak of the Jews in general. They that wish them well should not fill them up with notions of a birth-right which they have forfeited, and thus confirm them in the very same pride which led them to crucify the Lord of Glory. What is a Jew more than another man? for he is not a Jew which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew which is one inwardly, and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter, whose praise is not of men but of God." Rom. ii. 28, 29.
Mr. Dymock would not listen to honest Shanty on this subject, much as he respected him; and, indeed, the poor Laird was at this time deeply oppressed with other matters.
He had, in his various speculations, so entirely neglected his own affairs for some years past, that poverty, nay actual penury, was staring in his face. He had formerly mortgaged, by little and little, most of his lands, and nothing now remained to make money of, but the Castle itself and a few acres around it, with the exception only of a cottage and a small field, hitherto occupied by a labourer, which lay in a kind of hollow on the side of the knoll, where the entrance of the secret cavern was. This cottage was as remote from Dymock's Tower in one way, as Shanty's shed was in another; although the three dwellings formed together a sort of equilateral triangle. Mr. Dymock long suspected that this labourer had done his share to waste his substance; and once or twice it had occurred to him, that if he left the Castle he might retire to the cottage. But yet, to part with the Castle, could he find a purchaser, would, he feared, be death to Mrs. Margaret, and how would Tamar bear it?—this glorious Maid of Judah, as he was wont to call her,—this palm tree of Zion, this daughter of David,—the very fine person, and very superior air of Tamar having confirmed him in the impression of her noble birth. It was whilst these heavy thoughts respecting what must be done in the management of his affairs dwelt on his mind, that the same man who had finished the unfortunate plough appeared again in Shanty's shed.
The old man recognized him immediately, although fourteen years had much changed his appearance, and he at once charged him with having had some concern with the woman who left the child.
The well-acted astonishment of the vagrant, for such he was, silenced Shanty, though it did not convince him that he was mistaken in his conjecture. However, the old man, changing his mode of attack, and regretting that he had put the stranger on his guard by giving him so home a thrust, pretended to be convinced, and entered into easy conversation with him; amongst other things asking him if perchance he knew of any one who wanted to purchase an estate?
"Aye!" said the vagrant, to whom as we small have the pleasure of introducing him again, we think it may be well to give the name of Harefoot,—"Aye! old gentleman, and might one ask where this estate of yours may be?"
"It is of no consequence," replied Shanty, "I answer no questions, as not being empowered so to do. At all events, however, the estate is not far from hence, and it is a magnificent place, I promise you, More's the pity, that those who have owned it for some hundreds of years, should be compelled to part with it."
Other matters were then introduced, and Shanty endeavoured to wind about Harefoot, but with little success; for, deep as he thought himself, he had one deeper to deal with. In truth, poor Shanty was but a babe in cunning, and the vagrant departed, without having dropped a single hint which could be taken hold of respecting Tamar. In the meantime troubles were pressing upon poor Dymock, the interest of moneys lent on the motgage was not forthcoming, and the Laird having no better friend (and as to a sincerer he needed none,) than poor Shanty, used from day to day to go down to the shed, to open his heart to the old man.
Shanty had long advised his patron to tell his situation to Mrs. Margaret, and to advertise the sale of the castle, but Dymock's pride had not yet so far submitted itself, as to enable him to make so public a confession of the downfall of the family, as an advertisement would do.
"I cannot open my heart to my aunt, Shanty," he said, "she, poor creature, has devoted her whole life to keeping up the dignity of the house; how, then, will she bear to see the whole labour of her life annihilated?"
"The sooner she knows of what is coming the better," returned Shanty, "if she is not prepared, the blow when it comes, will go nigh utterly to overpower her," and the old man proposed to go himself, to open the matter to her.
"You shall, Shanty, you shall," said the Laird, "but wait a little, wait a little, we may hear of a purchaser for the castle, and when such a one is found, then you shall speak to my aunt."
"But first," said Shanty, "let me prepare your adopted one, let me open the matter to her; she is of an age, in which she ought to think and act no longer as a child; it is now fourteen years since I carried her up in my arms to Dymock's Tower, and though the young girl is too much filled up with pride, yet I fear not but that she is a jewel, which will shine brighter, when rubbed under the wheel of adversity; allowing what I hope, that there is a jewel under that crust of pride."
"Pride!" repeated Dymock, flying off into the region of romance, "and if a daughter of Zion, a shoot from the Cedar of Lebanon, is not to carry her head high, who is to do so? the fate of her race may indeed follow her, and she may be brought down, to sit in the dust, but still even in the dust, she may yet boast her glorious origin."
Shanty raised his hands and eyes, "Lord help you! Dymock," he said, "but you are clean demented. I verily believe, that the child is nothing mere than the offspring of a begging gipsy, and that if her mother had been hanged, she would only have met with her deserts."
Discussions of this kind were constantly taking place between Shanty and Dymock, and it was in the very midst of one these arguments, that the rare appearance of a hired chaise,—a job and pair, as Shanty called it, appeared coming over the moor, directly to the shed, and so quick was the approach, that the Laird and the blacksmith had by no means finished their conjectures respecting this phenomenon, before the equipage came to a stand, in the front of the hut.
As the carriage stopped, a spare, sallow, severe looking old gentlemen, put his head out of the window, and calling to the post boy, in a sharp, querulous tone, asked if he were quite sure that he was right?
"Not sure that this is old Shanty's hut; Shanty of Dymock's Moor," replied the post-boy, in a broad Northern accent; "ask me if I don't know my own mother's son, though she never had but one bairn."
Dymock and Shanty no sooner heard the voice of the boy, than they both recognized him, and stepping forward, they went up to the carriage and offered to assist the old gentleman to alight; he received their civilities with very little courtesy. However, he got out of the carriage, and giving himself a shake, and a sort of twist, which caused the lappets of his coat to expand, like the fan-tail of a pigeon, he asked, if the place was Dymock's Moor, and if the old man he saw before him, was one called Shanty of the Moor? The blacksmith declared himself to be that same person, "and this gentlemen," he added, pointing to Dymock, whose every day dress, by the bye, did not savor much of the Laird, "This gentleman is Dymock himself."
"Ah, is it so," said the stranger, "my business then is with him, show me where I can converse with him."
"I have no parlour to offer you," said Shanty; "to my shed, however, such as it is, I make you welcome."
No gracious notice was taken by the stranger of the offer, but without preamble or ceremony, he told his errand to Mr. Dymock. "I hear," he said, "that you wish to sell your Tower, and the lands which surround it; if after looking at it, and finding that it suits me, you will agree to let me have it, I will pay you down in moneys, to the just and due amount of the value thereof, but first I must see it."
"It stands there, Sir," said Shanty, seeing that Mr. Dymock's heart was too full to permit him to speak; "it stands there, Sir, and is as noble an object as my eye ever fell upon. The Tower," continued the old man, "at this minute, lies directly under the only dark cloud now in the heavens; nevertheless, a slanting ray from the westering sun now falls on its highest turret; look on, Sir, and say wherever have you seen a grander object?"
The old gentleman uttered an impatient pish, and said, "Old man, your travels must needs have lain in small compass, if you think much of yon heap of stones and rubbish." The Laird's choler was rising, and he would infallibly have told the stranger to have walked himself off, if Shanty had not pulled him by the sleeve, and, stepping before the stranger, said something in a soothing way, which should enhance the dignity of the Tower and encourage the pretended purchaser.
"I must see it, I must see it," returned the old gentleman, "not as now mixed up with the clouds, but I must examine it, see its capabilities, and know precisely what it is worth, and how it can be secured to me and my heirs for ever."
It was warm work which poor Shanty now had to do; between the irritated seller and the testy buyer, he had never been in a hotter place before his own forge, and there was wind enough stirring in all reason, without help of bellows, for the Laird puffed and groaned and uttered half sentences, and wished himself dead, on one side of the old blacksmith, whilst the stranger went on as calmly, coolly, and deliberately, with his bargain, on the other side, as if he were dealing with creatures utterly without feeling. Shanty turned first to one, and then to another; nodding and winking to Dymock to keep quiet on one side, whilst he continued to vaunt the merits of the purchase on the other.
At length, on a somewhat more than usually testy remark of the stranger reaching the ears of the Laird, he burst by Shanty and had already uttered these words, "Let me hear no more of this, I am a gentleman, and abominate the paltry consideration of pounds, shillings, and pence;" when Shanty forcibly seizing his arm, turned him fairly round, whispering, "Go, and for the sake of common sense, hold your tongue, leave the matter to me, let me bargain for you; go and tell Mrs. Margaret that we are coming, and make what tale you will to her, to explain our unceremonious visit; you had better have told her all before."
The Laird informed Shanty that there was no need of going up to the Tower to inform his aunt, as she and Tamar were gone that day over the border to visit a friend; but added he, "I take your offer, Shanty, make the bargain for me if you can, and I shall not appear till I am wanted to sign and seal," and away marched the Laird nor was he forthcoming again for some hours.
After he was gone, Shanty begged leave to have a few minutes given him for washing his hands and face and making himself decent, and then walked up with the testy old gentlemen to the castle. Little as Shanty knew of the great and grand world, yet his heart misgave him, lest the ruinous state of the castle, (although the Tower itself stood in its ancient and undilapidated strength,) should so entirely disgust the stranger that he should at once renounce all ideas of the purchase; he was therefore much pleased when the old gentleman, having gone grumbling and muttering into every room and every outhouse, crying, it is naught! it is naught! as buyers generally do, bade Shanty tell the Laird that he was going to the nearest town, that he should be there till the business was settled, that he would give the fair valuation for the estate, and that the payment should be prompt.
Shanty was, indeed astonished; he was all amazement, nor did he recover himself, till he saw the old gentleman walk away, and get into his carriage which was waiting on the other side of the moat, it not being particularly convenient, on account of the total deficiency of anything like a bridge or passable road? to bring a carriage larger than a wheel-barrow up to the castle.
Dymock returned to the shed, when he, from some place of observation on the moor, saw that the carriage had reached the high road, and there, having been told all that had passed, the poor gentleman (who, by the bye, was not half pleased with the idea of the honours of Dymock falling into the hands of such a purchaser,) informed Shanty that he must prepare to go with him the next day to Hexham, where the stranger had appointed to meet him.
"I go with you!" exclaimed Shanty, "was ever so strange a conceit."
"I shall be fleeced, shorn, ruined," implied Mr. Dymock, "if I go to make a bargain, without a grain of common sense in my company."
"True," returned Shanty, "your worship is right; but how are we to go? I have plenty of horse-shoes by me, but neither you, nor I Laird, I fear could find any four legs to wear them."
"We must e'en walk then," said Dymock, "nay, I would gladly carry you on my back, rather than descend to the meanness of driving a bargain with a testy old fellow like that; by the bye, Shanty, what does he call himself?"
"Salmon," replied Shanty, "and I mistake if he has not a touch of the foreigner on his tongue."
"You will accompany me, then Shanty," said the Laird.
"I will," he replied, "if this evening you will open the business out to Mrs. Margaret."
"It cannot be Shanty," replied Dymock chuckling, "for she does not expect to be back over the border till to-morrow, and when to-morrow is over and we know what we are about, then you shall tell her all."
"Dymock," said Shanty, "you are hard upon me, when you have a morsel to swallow that is too tough for you, you put it into my mouth; but," added the old man kindly, "there is not much that I would refuse to do for your father's son."
The sun had not yet risen over the moor, when Dymock and Shanty, both arrayed in their best, set off for Hexham, where they found the crabbed old gentlemen, still in the humour of making the purchase, though he abused the place in language at once rude and petulant; his offer, however, was, as Shanty compelled Dymock to see, a very fair one, though the more sensible and wary blacksmith could not persuade his friend to beware of trusting anything to the honour of Mr. Salmon.
Dymock's estate had been deeply mortgaged, the sale was made subject to the mortgages, and the purchaser was bound to pay the mortgagee the mortgage moneys, after which there was small surplus coming to poor Dymock. This small surplus was, however, paid down on the signing of the papers; still, however, there was an additional payment to take place soon after possession.
This payment was, it was supposed, to be for fixtures and other articles, which were to be left on the premises, and it was not to be asked till Mr. Salmon had been resident a few weeks. The amount was between five and six hundred pounds, and was in fact all that Dymock would have to depend upon besides his cottage, his field, a right of shooting on the moor, and fishing in a lake which belonged to the estate, and about twenty pounds a year which appertained to Mrs. Margaret, from which it was supposed she had made some savings.
Shanty had succeeded in forcing the Laird to listen to the dictates of prudence, and to act with sufficient caution, till it came to what he called the dirty part of the work, to wit, the valuation of small articles, and then was the blood of the Dymocks all up; nor would he hear of requiring a bond for the payment of this last sum, such a document, in fact, as should bind the purchaser down to payment without dispute. He contented himself only with such a note from the old man as ought he asserted to be quite sufficient, and it was utterly useless for Shanty to expostulate. The Laird had got on his high horse and was prancing and capering beyond all the controul of his honest friend, whilst Mr. Salmon, no doubt, laughed in his sleeve, and only lamented that he had not known Dymock better from the first, for in that case he would have used his cunning to have obtained a better bargain of the castle and lands. It was not one nor two visits to Hexham which completed these arrangements; however Mr. Dymock, after the first visit, no longer refused to permit Shanty to open out every thing to his aunt, and to prepare her to descend into a cottage, on an income of forty or fifty pounds a year.
Mrs. Margaret bore the information better than Shanty had expected; she had long anticipated some such blow, and her piety enabled her to bear it with cheerfulness. "I now," she said, "know the worst, and I see not wherefore, though I am a Dymock, I should not be happy in a cottage, I am only sorry for Tamar; poor Tamar! what will become of her?"
"Oh mother! dear mother!" said Tamar weeping, "why are you sorry for me, cannot I go with you? surely you would not part from me;" and she fell weeping on Mrs. Margaret's bosom.
"Never before! oh, never before," cried Mrs. Margaret, "did I feel my poverty as I do now."
"Mother dear! oh mother dear! had I thousands of pounds, I would devote them all to you, and to my dear protector."
"God helping you, or God working in you Tamar," said Shanty, rubbing his rough hand across his eyes, "but never boast of what you will do, dear child; boasting does not suit the condition of humanity."
"Oh! that I could now find my father," she replied, "and if I could find him a rich man, what a comfort it would be; what would I give now," she added, "to find a rich father!"
Mrs. Margaret kissed her child, and wept with her, calling her a dear, affectionate, grateful creature; but Shanty made no remark respecting Tamar's gratitude; he had it in his mind to speak to her when alone, and he very soon found the opportunity he wished.
It was on the next Sunday that he met Tamar walking on the moor, and it was then that he thus addressed her, "I was sorry damsel," he said, "to hear you speak as you did to Mrs. Margaret the other day, making a profession of what you would do for her if you were rich, and yet never offering her that which you have to give her."
"What have I to give her?" asked Tamar.
"Much," replied the old man; "much, very much. You have strength, and activity, and affection to give her. With forty pounds a-year, a house, and a little field, which is all your adopted parents will have, can they, think you, keep a servant? Will not the very closest care be necessary, and should not one who is young, and faithful, and attached, rejoice to serve her benefactors at such time as this, and to render their fall as easy as possible; and where, I ask you, Tamar, should they find such service as you can render them?"
They were walking side by side, the old man and the beautiful girl, among the heather of the moor; and he was looking up kindly and animatedly to her,—for he was a remarkably short, thick-set man,—but she was looking down on the ground, whilst a bitter struggle was passing in her mind. She had been filled up by her guardian with wild fancies of her own greatness, which was hereafter to be made manifest; and it would have been too strong for unaided nature, to bring herself to submit to such drudgeries as duty seemed now to require of her; her bright-brown cheek was flushed with the inward contest, and her bosom seemed to be almost swelled to suffocation. But the assistance required was not withheld in the hour of need, and Shanty was soon made aware of the change of feelings which was suddenly imparted to the orphan by the change of the expression of her countenance; the tears had already filled her eyes, when she turned to her old friend, and thanked him for his reproof, expressing her conviction, that his advice was that of a true Christian, and begging him always to tell her, in like manner, when he saw that she was going wrong. A more general discussion on the subject of true religion then followed, and Shanty assured Tamar, that all high notions of self, whether of birth, talents, or riches, were unpleasing in the sight of God, and utterly inconsistent with that view of salvation by Christ, which is independent of all human merit. Such was the nature of the lessons given by the old man to Tamar. His language was, however, broad, and full of north-country phrases, so much so, as to have rendered them inexplicable to one who had not been accustomed to the Border dialect. From that day, however, through the divine mercy, the heart of Tamar was given to the duties which she saw before her, and all her activity was presently put into requisition; for Mr. Salmon had given notice, that he should take possession of Dymock's Tower as soon as it could be got ready for him, and he also sent persons to make the preparations which he required. These preparations were of a most singular nature; his object appeared neither to be the beautifying of the old place, or even the rendering it more comfortable, for he neither sent new furniture, nor ordered the restoration of any of the dilapidated chambers or courts. But he ordered the moat to be repaired, so that it could be filled and kept full, and he directed that a light draw-bridge should also be erected. The walls of the inner courts were also to be put to rights, and new gates added. There was a great laugh in the country respecting this unknown humourist; and some said he was preparing for a siege, and others going to set up for a modern Rob Roy, and Castle-Dymock was to be his head-quarters.
The greater part of the furniture, and all the fixtures, were to be paid for by the money for which the Laird had Mr. Salmon's memorandum; and they who knew their condition, said that the things had been brought to a good market, as little of the furniture would have been worth the carriage across the moor. Nothing at present, therefore, remained for the aunt and the nephew to do, but to remove to the cottage as soon as it should be ready to receive them.
This humble habitation was situated in a small nook or vale of the moor called Heatherdale. A little fresh-water spring ran through it, coming in at the higher end of the valley, and going out through a natural cleft in a block of granite at the other end. There were many tall trees scattered on the banks within the dell; and the place was so sheltered, that many a plant would flourish in the garden on the south side of the house, which could hardly be kept alive in any other situation in the country.
The cottage was an old, black, timbered and thatched edifice, and had four rooms of considerable dimensions, two above and two below, with a porch in the front, overgrown with briony and another hardy creeper. As soon as this tenement was vacated, and the Laird's intention of inhabiting it known, the ancient tenants of the family all manifested their affection by using their several crafts in repairing the cottage, and setting the house to rights,—one mended the thatch, another repaired the wood-work, a third white-washed the walls, another mended the paling, and old Shanty did any little job in his way which might be required.
The labours of love never hang long on hand, and though the old tenant had gone out only at Lady-day, the hawthorn had scarcely blossomed when the affectionate people pronounced the work complete.
Poor Dymock had become very restless when he saw the changes which were going on at the Tower; but when there was no longer an excuse to be found for delaying the removal, he gave way altogether, or rather, we should say, made a cut and run, and went off to botanize the lakes in Westmoreland, with a knapsack on his back, and a guinea in his pocket.
Before he went, however, he had opened his heart to his daughter Tamar, saying, "I now take leave, dear child, of the life of a gentleman; henceforward I must content myself with the corner of a kitchen ingle; and this, truly, is a berth," he added, "too good for a cumberer of the ground, such as I am." He said this as he passed through the gate of the court, giving his adopted one time only to snatch his hand and kiss it, and he was gone beyond her hearing before she could relieve her heart with a burst of tears. After a while, however, she dried them up, and began to busy her mind in thinking what she could do to render the cottage comfortable for her beloved guardian; and having at length formed her plan, she ran to Mrs. Margaret, and asked her permission to take the arrangement of their new house.
"Let me," said she, "see all the things put in their places; you and I, dear aunt Margaret, will have to ourselves a kitchen as neat as a palace, and we will make a study of the inner room for Mr. Dymock."
"What!" said the old lady, "and give up our parlour?"
"Dear mother," replied the young girl carelessly, "if there is to be no maid but poor Tamar, why should not the kitchen be the happiest place, for her own dear mother? You shall have your chair in the corner, between the window and the fire-place, and your little work-table by it, and then you can direct me without moving from your needle. Oh! dear, aunt Margaret," she added, "I am beginning to think that we shall be happier in the cottage, than we have been in the Castle; we shall have fewer cares, and shall have a pleasure in putting our small means to the best. Do not the scatterings of the flock, aunt Margaret, make us as warm hose as the prime of the fleece?"
"That may be doubted child," replied the old lady with a smile, "but go young creature, take your way; I believe ere yet you have done, that you, with your sunny smile, will cheat me into contentment before I know what I am about; but mind, my lovely one," she added, "I will tell you how it is. I have been led to see how God in his displeasure,—displeasure, I say, on account of the pride of ancestry and station, which I have hitherto persisted in cherishing,—how God, I repeat, in his displeasure has remembered mercy, and, in taking away that which is worthless, has left me that which is most precious, even you my bright one."
The old lady then kissed Tamar, and gave her the permission she required, to arrange the cottage according to her own fancy. When the day of removal actually arrived, being the day after the Laird had walked himself off, the neighbours, with Shanty at their head, came to assist.
Tamar had determined upon having the room within the kitchen, for her beloved father by adoption; a village artist having understood her pious wish, had stained the walls of light grey, and painted the frame of the casement window of the same colour. Tamar had prepared a curtain of some light drapery for the window; a well-darned carpet covered the floor, the Laird's bookcases occupied one entire end of the room opposite the window, the wonted table of the old study at the Tower was placed in the centre of the floor, and was covered with its usual cloth, a somewhat tarnished baize, with a border worked in crewels by Mrs. Margaret in days gone by. In the centre of this table the inkstand was placed, and on the opposite wall, a venerable time-piece, asserted, with what truth we presume not to say, to be nearly as old as the clock sent by Haroun Al Raschid to the emperor Charlemagne. A few high-backed chairs, certain strange chimney ornaments, and other little matters dear to the Laird, finished the furniture of this room, and Tamar perfectly laughed with joy, when, having seen all done, she became aware that this small apartment was in fact more comfortable than the cold, wide, many-drafted study in the Tower.
Those who were with her caught the merry infection and laughed too, and Shanty said, "But dear one, whilst you thus rejoice in your own contrivances, have you not a word of praise to give to Him, who has spread such glories as no human skill could create, beyond yon little window?" The old man then opened the casement, and showed the sweet and peaceful scene which there presented itself; for the cottage was enclosed in a small dell, the green sides of which seemed to shut out all the world, enclosing within their narrow limits, a running brook, and hives of bees, and many fragrant flowers.
Tamar was equally successful, and equally well pleased with her arrangements in other parts of the cottage; the kitchen opened on one side to a little flower garden, on the other to the small yard, where Mrs. Margaret intended to keep her poultry, and the whole domain was encompassed by the small green field, which made up the extent of the dell, and was the only bit of land left to the representative of the house of Dymock. But Mrs. Margaret had reckoned that the land would keep a little favourite cow, and with this object Tamar had taken great pains to learn to milk.
When all was ready, Mrs. Margaret with many tears took leave of Dymock's Tower; she had not seen the process of preparation in the cottage, and was therefore perfectly astonished when she entered the house. Tamar received her with tears of tenderness, and the worthy lady having examined all the arrangements, blessed her adopted one, and confessed that they had all in that place that man really required. Neither did she or Tamar find that they had more to do than was agreeable; if they had no servants to wait upon them, they had no servants to disarrange their house. They had engaged an old cottager on the moor to give them an hour's work every evening, and for this they paid him with a stoup of milk, or some other small product of their dairy; money they had not to spare, and this he knew,—nor did he require any; he would have given his aid to the fallen family for nothing, had it been asked of him.
In wild and thinly peopled countries, there is more of neighbourly affection,—more of private kindness and sympathy than in crowded cities. Man is a finite creature; he cannot take into his heart many objects at once, and such, indeed, is the narrowness of his comprehension, that he cannot even conceive how the love of an infinite being can be generally exercised through creation. It is from this incapacity that religious people, at least too many of them, labour so sedulously as they do to instil the notion of the particularity of the work of salvation, making it almost to appear, that the Almighty Father brings beings into existence, merely to make them miserable,—but we are wandering from our story.
Aunt Margaret and Tamar had been at the cottage a fortnight before Dymock returned; Tamar saw him first coming down the glen, looking wearied, dispirited and shabby.
She ran out to meet her adopted father, and sprang into his arms; his eyes were filled with tears, and her bright smiles caused those eyes to overflow.
She took his hand, she brought him in, she set him a chair, and Mrs. Margaret kissing him, said "Come Dymock brighten up, and thank your God for a happy home."
Dymock sighed, Tamar took his heavy knapsack from him, and placed before him bread and butter, and cheese, and a stoup of excellent beer.
"Eat, dear father," she said, "and then you shall go to bed, (for it was late in the evening,) and to-morrow you will see what a sweet place this is;" but poor Dymock could not rally that night. Tamar had always slept with Mrs. Margaret, and the best room of the two above stairs had been prepared for Dymock, Mrs. Margaret having found a place under the rafters for her innumerable boxes.
The poor Laird slept well, and when he awoke the sun was shining into his room, and aunt Margaret had arranged his clean clothes at the foot of his bed; he arose in better spirits, and dressing himself, he went down; he found Tamar in the kitchen, and she, without speaking, took his hand and led him to his study.
The poor gentleman could not bear this: he saw the sacrifice his aunt had made for him, and the exertions also which Tamar must have made to produce this result, and he fairly wept; but this burst of agitation being over, he embraced his adopted child, and expressed his earnest hope that henceforward he might be enabled to live more closely with his God.
But the mind of Dymock was not a well balanced one; he could not live without a scheme, and he had scarcely been two days in the cottage, when he re-aimed at the ideas which he had formerly indulged of becoming an author, and of obtaining both fame and money by his writings. Mrs. Margaret was fretted when she was made aware of this plan, and sent Tamar to Shanty, to ask him to talk him out of the fancy, and to persuade him to adopt some employment, if it were only digging in his garden, which might bring in something; but Shanty sent Tamar back to Mrs. Margaret to tell her that she ought to be thankful that there was anything found which would keep the Laird easy and quiet, and out of the way of spending the little which he had left. Poor Dymock, therefore, was not disturbed in his attempts at authorship, and there he used to sit in his study with slip-shod feet, an embroidered dressing gown, which Mrs. Margaret had quilted from an old curtain, and a sort of turban twisted about his head, paying no manner of attention to hours or seasons. As Mrs. Margaret only allowed him certain inches of candle, he could not sit up all night as geniuses ought to be permitted to do; but then he would arise with the lark and set to work, before any of the labourers on the moor were in motion. In vain did Mrs. Margaret complain and expostulate; she even in her trouble sent Tamar again to Shanty to request him to plead with the Laird, and beg him to allow himself to enjoy his regular rest; but in this case when she required Shanty's aid, she had reckoned without her host.
"Go back to Mrs. Margaret, damsel," he said, "go and tell the lady that as long as she can keep the Laird from work by candle light, so long no harm is done, and if instead of murmuring at this early rising, fair child, you will take example by him, and leave your bed at the same time that your hear him go down, you will do well. He that lies in bed gives a daily opportunity to his servants, if he has any to serve him, to do mischief before he is up, and she that rises with the sun and goes straight forward, like an arrow in its course, in the path of her duties, shall find fewer thorns and more roses in that path, than those who indulge in ease. Through divine mercy," continued the old man, "our own exertions are not needed for the assurance of our salvation, but sloth and carelessness tend to penury and misery, in this present life; and there is no sloth more ruinous to health and property than that of wasting the precious morning hours in bed."