A TALE OF THE LAST CENTURY
By William Makepeace Thackeray
TO SIR HENRY MADISON, Chief Justice of Madras, this book is inscribed by an affectionate old friend.
London, September 7, 1859.
CHAPTER I In which one of the Virginians visits Home II In which Harry has to pay for his Supper III The Esmonds in Virginia IV In which Harry finds a New Relative V Family Jars VI The Virginians begin to see the World VII Preparations for War VIII In which George suffers from a common Disease IX Hospitalities X A Hot Afternoon XI Wherein the two Georges prepare for Blood XII News from the Camp XIII Profitless Quest XIV Harry in England XV A Sunday at Castlewood XVI In which Gumbo shows Skill with the Old English Weapon XVII On the Scent XVIII An Old Story XIX Containing both Love and Luck XX Facilis Descensus XXI Samaritans XXII In Hospital XXIII Holydays XXIV From Oakhurst to Tunbridge XXV New Acquaintances XXVI In which we are at a very great distance from Oakhurst XXVII Plenum Opus Aleae XXVIII The Way of the World XXIX In which Harry continues to enjoy Otium sine Dignitate XXX Contains a Letter to Virginia XXXI The Bear and the Leader XXXII In which a Family Coach is ordered XXXIII Contains a Soliloquy by Hester XXXIV In which Mr. Warrington treats the Company with Tea and a Ball XXXV Entanglements XXXVI Which seems to mean Mischief XXXVII In which various Matches are fought XXXVIII Sampson and the Philistines XXXIX Harry to the Rescue XL In which Harry pays off an Old Debt, and incurs some New Ones XLI Rake's Progress XLII Fortunatus Nimium XLIII In which Harry flies high XLIV Contains what might, perhaps, have been expected XLV In which Harry finds two Uncles XLVI Chains and Slavery XLVII Visitors in Trouble XLVIII An Apparition XLIX Friends in Need L Contains a Great deal of the Finest Morality LI Conticuere Omnes LII Intentique Ora tenebant LIII Where we remain at the Court End of the Town LIV During which Harry sits smoking his Pipe at Home LV Between Brothers LVI Ariadne LVII In which Harry's Nose continues to be put out of joint LVIII Where we do what Cats may do LIX In which we are treated to a Play LX Which treats of Macbeth, a Supper, and a Pretty Kettle of Fish LXI In which the Prince marches up the Hill and down again LXII Arma Virumque LXIII Melpomene LXIV In which Harry lives to fight another day LXV Soldier's Return LXVI In which we go a-courting LXVII In which a Tragedy is acted, and two more begun LXVIII In which Harry goes Westward LXIX A Little Innocent LXX In which Cupid plays a considerable part LXXI With Favours LXXII (From the Warrington MS.) In which my Lady is on the Top of the Ladder LXXIII We keep Christmas at Castlewood. 1759 LXXIV News from Canada LXXV The Course of True Love LXXVI Informs us how Mr. Warrington jumped into a Landau LXXVII And how everybody got out again LXXVIII Pyramus and Thisbe LXXIX Containing both Comedy and Tragedy LXXX Pocahontas LXXXI Res Angusta Domi LXXXII Mile's Moidore LXXXIII Troubles and Consolations LXXXIV In which Harry submits to the Common Lot LXXXV Inveni Portum LXXXVI At Home LXXXVII The Last of God Save the King LXXXVIII Yankeee Doodle comes to Town LXXXIX A Colonel without a Regiment XC In which we both fight and run away XCI Satis Pugnae XCII Under Vine and Fig-Tree
CHAPTER I. In which one of the Virginians visits home
On the library wall of one of the most famous writers of America, there hang two crossed swords, which his relatives wore in the great War of Independence. The one sword was gallantly drawn in the service of the king, the other was the weapon of a brave and honoured republican soldier. The possessor of the harmless trophy has earned for himself a name alike honoured in his ancestors' country and his own, where genius such as his has always a peaceful welcome.
The ensuing history reminds me of yonder swords in the historian's study at Boston. In the Revolutionary War, the subjects of this story, natives of America, and children of the Old Dominion, found themselves engaged on different sides in the quarrel, coming together peaceably at its conclusion, as brethren should, their love ever having materially diminished, however angrily the contest divided them. The colonel in scarlet, and the general in blue and buff, hang side by side in the wainscoted parlour of the Warringtons, in England, where a descendant of one of the brothers has shown their portraits to me, with many of the letters which they wrote, and the books and papers which belonged to them. In the Warrington family, and to distinguish them from other personages of that respectable race, these effigies have always gone by the name of "The Virginians"; by which name their memoirs are christened.
They both of them passed much time in Europe. They lived just on the verge of that Old World from which we are drifting away so swiftly. They were familiar with many varieties of men and fortune. Their lot brought them into contact with personages of whom we read only in books, who seem alive, as I read in the Virginians' letters regarding them, whose voices I almost fancy I hear, as I read the yellow pages written scores of years since, blotted with the boyish tears of disappointed passion, dutifully despatched after famous balls and ceremonies of the grand Old World, scribbled by camp-fires, or out of prison; nay, there is one that has a bullet through it, and of which a greater portion of the text is blotted out with the blood of the bearer.
These letters had probably never been preserved, but for the affectionate thrift of one person, to whom they never failed in their dutiful correspondence. Their mother kept all her sons' letters, from the very first, in which Henry, the younger of the twins, sends his love to his brother, then ill of a sprain at his grandfather's house of Castlewood, in Virginia, and thanks his grandpapa for a horse which he rides with his tutor, down to the last, "from my beloved son," which reached her but a few hours before her death. The venerable lady never visited Europe, save once with her parents in the reign of George the Second; took refuge in Richmond when the house of Castlewood was burned down during the war; and was called Madam Esmond ever after that event; never caring much for the name or family of Warrington, which she held in very slight estimation as compared to her own.
The letters of the Virginians, as the reader will presently see, from specimens to be shown to him, are by no means full. They are hints rather than descriptions—indications and outlines chiefly: it may be, that the present writer has mistaken the forms, and filled in the colour wrongly: but, poring over the documents, I have tried to imagine the situation of the writer, where he was, and by what persons surrounded. I have drawn the figures as I fancied they were; set down conversations as I think I might have heard them; and so, to the best of my ability, endeavoured to revivify the bygone times and people. With what success the task has been accomplished, with what profit or amusement to himself, the kind reader will please to determine.
One summer morning in the year 1756, and in the reign of his Majesty King George the Second, the Young Rachel, Virginian ship, Edward Franks master, came up the Avon river on her happy return from her annual voyage to the Potomac. She proceeded to Bristol with the tide, and moored in the stream as near as possible to Trail's wharf, to which she was consigned. Mr. Trail, her part owner, who could survey his ship from his counting-house windows, straightway took boat and came up her side. The owner of the Young Rachel, a large grave man in his own hair, and of a demure aspect, gave the hand of welcome to Captain Franks, who stood on his deck, and congratulated the captain upon the speedy and fortunate voyage which he had made. And, remarking that we ought to be thankful to Heaven for its mercies, he proceeded presently to business by asking particulars relative to cargo and passengers.
Franks was a pleasant man, who loved a joke. "We have," says he, "but yonder ugly negro boy, who is fetching the trunks, and a passenger who has the state cabin to himself."
Mr. Trail looked as if he would have preferred more mercies from Heaven. "Confound you, Franks, and your luck! The Duke William, which came in last week, brought fourteen, and she is not half of our tonnage."
"And this passenger, who has the whole cabin, don't pay nothin'," continued the Captain. "Swear now, it will do you good, Mr. Trail, indeed it will. I have tried the medicine."
"A passenger take the whole cabin and not pay? Gracious mercy, are you a fool, Captain Franks?"
"Ask the passenger himself, for here he comes." And, as the master spoke, a young man of some nineteen years of age came up the hatchway. He had a cloak and a sword under his arm, and was dressed in deep mourning, and called out, "Gumbo, you idiot, why don't you fetch the baggage out of the cabin? Well, shipmate, our journey is ended. You will see all the little folks to-night whom you have been talking about. Give my love to Polly, and Betty, and Little Tommy; not forgetting my duty to Mrs. Franks. I thought, yesterday, the voyage would never be done, and now I am almost sorry it is over. That little berth in my cabin looks very comfortable now I am going to leave it."
Mr. Trail scowled at the young passenger who had paid no money for his passage. He scarcely nodded his head to the stranger, when Captain Franks said, "This here gentleman is Mr. Trail, sir, whose name you have a-heerd of."
"It's pretty well known in Bristol, sir," says Mr. Trail, majestically.
"And this is Mr. Warrington, Madam Esmond Warrington's son, of Castlewood," continued the Captain.
The British merchant's hat was instantly off his head, and the owner of the beaver was making a prodigious number of bows as if a crown prince were before him.
"Gracious powers, Mr. Warrington! This is a delight, indeed! What a crowning mercy that your voyage should have been so prosperous! You must have my boat to go on shore. Let me cordially and respectfully welcome you to England: let me shake your hand as the son of my benefactress and patroness, Mrs. Esmond Warrington, whose name is known and honoured on Bristol 'Change, I warrant you. Isn't it, Franks?"
"There's no sweeter tobacco comes from Virginia, and no better brand than the Three Castles," says Mr. Franks, drawing a great brass tobacco-box from his pocket, and thrusting a quid into his jolly mouth. "You don't know what a comfort it is, sir! you'll take to it, bless you, as you grow older. Won't he, Mr. Trail? I wish you had ten shiploads of it instead of one. You might have ten shiploads: I've told Madam Esmond so; I've rode over her plantation; she treats me like a lord when I go to the house; she don't grudge me the best of wine, or keep me cooling my heels in the counting-room as some folks does" (with a look at Mr. Trail). "She is a real born lady, she is; and might have a thousand hogsheads as easy as her hundreds, if there were but hands enough."
"I have lately engaged in the Guinea trade, and could supply her ladyship with any number of healthy young negroes before next fall," said Mr. Trail, obsequiously.
"We are averse to the purchase of negroes from Africa," said the young gentleman, coldly. "My grandfather and my mother have always objected to it, and I do not like to think of selling or buying the poor wretches."
"It is for their good, my dear young sir! for their temporal and their spiritual good!" cried Mr. Trail. "And we purchase the poor creatures only for their benefit; let me talk this matter over with you at my own house. I can introduce you to a happy home, a Christian family, and a British merchant's honest fare. Can't I, Captain Franks?"
"Can't say," growled the Captain. "Never asked me to take bite or sup at your table. Asked me to psalm-singing once, and to hear Mr. Ward preach: don't care for them sort of entertainments."
Not choosing to take any notice of this remark, Mr. Trail continued in his low tone: "Business is business, my dear young sir, and I know, 'tis only my duty, the duty of all of us, to cultivate the fruits of the earth in their season. As the heir of Lady Esmond's estate—for I speak, I believe, to the heir of that great property?—"
The young gentleman made a bow.
"—I would urge upon you, at the very earliest moment, the propriety, the duty of increasing the ample means with which Heaven has blessed you. As an honest factor, I could not do otherwise; as a prudent man, should I scruple to speak of what will tend to your profit and mine? No, my dear Mr. George."
"My name is not George; my name is Henry," said the young man as he turned his head away, and his eyes filled with tears.
"Gracious powers! what do you mean, sir? Did you not say you were my lady's heir? and is not George Esmond Warrington, Esq.——"
"Hold your tongue, you fool!" cried Mr. Franks, striking the merchant a tough blow on his sleek sides, as the young lad turned away. "Don't you see the young gentleman a-swabbing his eyes, and note his black clothes?"
"What do you mean, Captain Franks, by laying your hand on your owners? Mr. George is the heir; I know the Colonel's will well enough."
"Mr. George is there," said the Captain, pointing with his thumb to the deck.
"Where?" cries the factor.
"Mr. George is there!" reiterated the Captain, again lifting up his finger towards the topmast, or the sky beyond. "He is dead a year, sir, come next 9th of July. He would go out with General Braddock on that dreadful business to the Belle Riviere. He and a thousand more never came back again. Every man of them was murdered as he fell. You know the Indian way, Mr. Trail?" And here the Captain passed his hand rapidly round his head. "Horrible! ain't it, sir? horrible! He was a fine young man, the very picture of this one; only his hair was black, which is now hanging in a bloody Indian wigwam. He was often and often on board of the Young Rachel, and would have his chests of books broke open on deck before they was landed. He was a shy and silent young gent: not like this one, which was the merriest, wildest young fellow, full of his songs and fun. He took on dreadful at the news; went to his bed, had that fever which lays so many of 'em by the heels along that swampy Potomac, but he's got better on the voyage: the voyage makes every one better; and, in course, the young gentleman can't be for ever a-crying after a brother who dies and leaves him a great fortune. Ever since we sighted Ireland he has been quite gay and happy, only he would go off at times, when he was most merry, saying, 'I wish my dearest Georgy could enjoy this here sight along with me, and when you mentioned the t'other's name, you see, he couldn't stand it.'" And the honest Captain's own eyes filled with tears, as he turned and looked towards the object of his compassion.
Mr. Trail assumed a lugubrious countenance befitting the tragic compliment with which he prepared to greet the young Virginian; but the latter answered him very curtly, declined his offers of hospitality, and only stayed in Mr. Trail's house long enough to drink a glass of wine and to take up a sum of money of which he stood in need. But he and Captain Franks parted on the very warmest terms, and all the little crew of the Young Rachel cheered from the ship's side as their passenger left it.
Again and again Harry Warrington and his brother had pored over the English map, and determined upon the course which they should take upon arriving at Home. All Americans who love the old country—and what gently-nurtured man or woman of Anglo-Saxon race does not?—have ere this rehearsed their English travels, and visited in fancy the spots with which their hopes, their parents' fond stories, their friends' descriptions, have rendered them familiar. There are few things to me more affecting in the history of the quarrel which divided the two great nations than the recurrence of that word Home, as used by the younger towards the elder country. Harry Warrington had his chart laid out. Before London, and its glorious temples of St. Paul's and St. Peter's; its grim Tower, where the brave and loyal had shed their blood, from Wallace down to Balmerino and Kilmarnock, pitied by gentle hearts; before the awful window of Whitehall, whence the martyr Charles had issued, to kneel once more, and then ascend to Heaven;—before Playhouses, Parks, and Palaces, wondrous resorts of wit, pleasure, and splendour;—before Shakspeare's Resting-place under the tall spire which rises by Avon, amidst the sweet Warwickshire pastures;—before Derby, and Falkirk, and Culloden, where the cause of honour and loyalty had fallen, it might be to rise no more:—before all these points of their pilgrimage there was one which the young Virginian brothers held even more sacred, and that was the home of their family,—that old Castlewood in Hampshire, about which their parents had talked so fondly. From Bristol to Bath, from Bath to Salisbury, to Winchester, to Hexton, to Home; they knew the way, and had mapped the journey many and many a time.
We must fancy our American traveller to be a handsome young fellow, whose suit of sables only made him look the more interesting. The plump landlady from her bar, surrounded by her china and punch-bowls, and stout gilded bottles of strong waters, and glittering rows of silver flagons, looked kindly after the young gentleman as he passed through the inn-hall from his post-chaise, and the obsequious chamberlain bowed him upstairs to the Rose or the Dolphin. The trim chambermaid dropped her best curtsey for his fee, and Gumbo, in the inn-kitchen, where the townsfolk drank their mug of ale by the great fire, bragged of his young master's splendid house in Virginia, and of the immense wealth to which he was heir. The postchaise whirled the traveller through the most delightful home-scenery his eyes had ever lighted on. If English landscape is pleasant to the American of the present day, who must needs contrast the rich woods and glowing pastures, and picturesque ancient villages of the old country with the rough aspect of his own, how much pleasanter must Harry Warrington's course have been, whose journeys had lain through swamps and forest solitudes from one Virginian ordinary to another log-house at the end of the day's route, and who now lighted suddenly upon the busy, happy, splendid scene of English summer? And the highroad, a hundred years ago, was not that grass-grown desert of the present time. It was alive with constant travel and traffic: the country towns and inns swarmed with life and gaiety. The ponderous waggon, with its bells and plodding team; the light post-coach that achieved the journey from the White Hart, Salisbury, to the Swan with Two Necks, London, in two days; the strings of packhorses that had not yet left the road; my lord's gilt postchaise-and-six, with the outriders galloping on ahead; the country squire's great coach and heavy Flanders mares; the farmers trotting to market, or the parson jolting to the cathedral town on Dumpling, his wife behind on the pillion—all these crowding sights and brisk people greeted the young traveller on his summer journey. Hodge, the farmer's boy, took off his hat, and Polly, the milkmaid, bobbed a curtsey, as the chaise whirled over the pleasant village-green, and the white-headed children lifted their chubby faces and cheered. The church-spires glistened with gold, the cottage-gables glared in sunshine, the great elms murmured in summer, or cast purple shadows over the grass. Young Warrington never had such a glorious day, or witnessed a scene so delightful. To be nineteen years of age, with high health, high spirits, and a full purse, to be making your first journey, and rolling through the country in a postchaise at nine miles an hour—O happy youth! almost it makes one young to think of him! But Harry was too eager to give more than a passing glance at the Abbey at Bath, or gaze with more than a moment's wonder at the mighty Minster at Salisbury. Until he beheld Home it seemed to him he had no eyes for any other place.
At last the young gentleman's postchaise drew up at the rustic inn on Castlewood Green, of which his grandsire had many a time talked to him, and which bears as its ensign, swinging from an elm near the inn porch, the Three Castles of the Esmond family. They had a sign, too, over the gateway of Castlewood House, bearing the same cognisance. This was the hatchment of Francis, Lord Castlewood, who now lay in the chapel hard by, his son reigning in his stead.
Harry Warrington had often heard of Francis, Lord Castlewood. It was for Frank's sake, and for his great love towards the boy, that Colonel Esmond determined to forgo his claim to the English estates and rank of his family, and retired to Virginia. The young man had led a wild youth; he had fought with distinction under Marlborough; he had married a foreign lady, and most lamentably adopted her religion. At one time he had been a Jacobite (for loyalty to the sovereign was ever hereditary in the Esmond family), but had received some slight or injury from the Prince, which had caused him to rally to King George's side. He had, on his second marriage, renounced the errors of Popery which he had temporarily embraced, and returned to the Established Church again. He had, from his constant support of the King and the Minister of the time being, been rewarded by his Majesty George II., and died an English peer. An earl's coronet now figured on the hatchment which hung over Castlewood gate—and there was an end of the jolly gentleman. Between Colonel Esmond, who had become his stepfather, and his lordship there had ever been a brief but affectionate correspondence—on the Colonel's part especially, who loved his stepson, and had a hundred stories to tell about him to his grandchildren. Madam Esmond, however, said she could see nothing in her half-brother. He was dull, except when he drank too much wine, and that, to be sure, was every day at dinner. Then he was boisterous, and his conversation not pleasant. He was good-looking—yes—a fine tall stout animal; she had rather her boys should follow a different model. In spite of the grandfather's encomium of the late lord, the boys had no very great respect for their kinsman's memory. The lads and their mother were staunch Jacobites, though having every respect for his present Majesty; but right was right, and nothing could make their hearts swerve from their allegiance to the descendants of the martyr Charles.
With a beating heart Harry Warrington walked from the inn towards the house where his grandsire's youth had been passed. The little village-green of Castlewood slopes down towards the river, which is spanned by an old bridge of a single broad arch, and from this the ground rises gradually towards the house, grey with many gables and buttresses, and backed by a darkling wood. An old man sate at the wicket on a stone bench in front of the great arched entrance to the house, over which the earl's hatchment was hanging. An old dog was crouched at the man's feet. Immediately above the ancient sentry at the gate was an open casement with some homely flowers in the window, from behind which good-humoured girls' faces were peeping. They were watching the young traveller dressed in black as he walked up gazing towards the castle, and the ebony attendant who followed the gentleman's steps also accoutred in mourning. So was he at the gate in mourning, and the girls when they came out had black ribbons.
To Harry's surprise, the old man accosted him by his name. "You have had a nice ride to Hexton, Master Harry, and the sorrel carried you well."
"I think you must be Lockwood," said Harry, with rather a tremulous voice, holding out his hand to the old man. His grandfather had often told him of Lockwood, and how he had accompanied the Colonel and the young Viscount in Marlborough's wars forty years ago. The veteran seemed puzzled by the mark of affection which Harry extended to him. The old dog gazed at the new-comer, and then went and put his head between his knees. "I have heard of you often. How did you know my name?"
"They say I forget most things," says the old man, with a smile; "but I ain't so bad as that quite. Only this mornin', when you went out, my darter says, 'Father, do you know why you have a black coat on?' 'In course I know why I have a black coat,' says I. 'My lord is dead. They say 'twas a foul blow, and Master Frank is my lord now, and Master Harry'—why, what have you done since you've went out this morning? Why, you have a-grow'd taller and changed your hair—though I know—I know you."
One of the young women had tripped out by this time from the porter's lodge, and dropped the stranger a pretty curtsey. "Grandfather sometimes does not recollect very well," she said, pointing to her head. "Your honour seems to have heard of Lockwood?"
"And you, have you never heard of Colonel Francis Esmond?"
"He was Captain and Major in Webb's Foot, and I was with him in two campaigns, sure enough," cries Lockwood. "Wasn't I, Ponto?"
"The Colonel as married Viscountess Rachel, my late lord's mother? and went to live amongst the Indians? We have heard of him. Sure we have his picture in our gallery, and hisself painted it."
"Went to live in Virginia, and died there seven years ago, and I am his grandson."
"Lord, your honour! Why, your honour's skin's as white as mine," cries Molly. "Grandfather, do you hear this? His honour is Colonel Esmond's grandson that used to send you tobacco, and his honour have come all the way from Virginia."
"To see you, Lockwood," says the young man, "and the family. I only set foot on English ground yesterday, and my first visit is for home. I may see the house, though the family are from home?" Molly dared to say Mrs. Barker would let his honour see the house, and Harry Warrington made his way across the court, seeming to know the place as well as if he had been born there, Miss Molly thought, who followed, accompanied by Mr. Gumbo making her a profusion of polite bows and speeches.
CHAPTER II. In which Harry has to pay for his Supper
Colonel Esmond's grandson rang for a while at his ancestors' house of Castlewood, before any one within seemed inclined to notice his summons. The servant, who at length issued from the door, seemed to be very little affected by the announcement that the visitor was a relation of the family. The family was away, and in their absence John cared very little for their relatives, but was eager to get back to his game at cards with Thomas in the window-seat. The housekeeper was busy getting ready for my lord and my lady, who were expected that evening. Only by strong entreaties could Harry gain leave to see my lady's sitting-room and the picture-room, where, sure enough, was a portrait of his grandfather in periwig and breastplate, the counterpart of their picture in Virginia, and a likeness of his grandmother, as Lady Castlewood, in a yet earlier habit of Charles II.'s time; her neck bare, her fair golden hair waving over her shoulders in ringlets which he remembered to have seen snowy white. From the contemplation of these sights the sulky housekeeper drove him. Her family was about to arrive. There was my lady the Countess, and my lord and his brother, and the young ladies, and the Baroness, who was to have the state bedroom. Who was the Baroness? The Baroness Bernstein, the young ladies' aunt. Harry wrote down his name on a paper from his own pocket-book, and laid it on a table in the hall. "Henry Esmond Warrington, of Castlewood, in Virginia, arrived in England yesterday—staying at the Three Castles in the village." The lackeys rose up from their cards to open the door to him, in order to get their "wails," and Gumbo quitted the bench at the gate, where he had been talking with old Lockwood, the porter, who took Harry's guinea, hardly knowing the meaning of the gift. During the visit to the home of his fathers, Harry had only seen little Polly's countenance that was the least unselfish or kindly: he walked away, not caring to own how disappointed he was, and what a damp had been struck upon him by the aspect of the place. They ought to have known him. Had any of them ridden up to his house in Virginia, whether the master were present or absent, the guests would have been made welcome, and, in sight of his ancestors' hall, he had to go and ask for a dish of bacon and eggs at a country alehouse!
After his dinner, he went to the bridge and sate on it, looking towards the old house, behind which the sun was descending as the rooks came cawing home to their nests in the elms. His young fancy pictured to itself many of the ancestors of whom his mother and grandsire had told him. He fancied knights and huntsmen crossing the ford;—cavaliers of King Charles's days; my Lord Castlewood, his grandmother's first husband, riding out with hawk and hound. The recollection of his dearest lost brother came back to him as he indulged in these reveries, and smote him with a pang of exceeding tenderness and longing, insomuch that the young man hung his head and felt his sorrow renewed for the dear friend and companion with whom, until of late, all his pleasures and griefs had been shared. As he sate plunged in his own thoughts, which were mingled up with the mechanical clinking of the blacksmith's forge hard by, the noises of the evening, the talk of the rooks, and the calling of the birds round about—a couple of young men on horseback dashed over the bridge. One of them, with an oath, called him a fool, and told him to keep out of the way—the other, who fancied he might have jostled the foot-passenger, and possibly might have sent him over the parapet, pushed on more quickly when he reached the other side of the water, calling likewise to Tom to come on; and the pair of young gentlemen were up the hill on their way to the house before Harry had recovered himself from his surprise at their appearance, and wrath at their behaviour. In a minute or two, this advanced guard was followed by two livery servants on horseback, who scowled at the young traveller on the bridge a true British welcome of Curse you, who are you? After these, in a minute or two, came a coach-and-six, a ponderous vehicle having need of the horses which drew it, and containing three ladies, a couple of maids, and an armed man on a seat behind the carriage. Three handsome pale faces looked out at Harry Warrington as the carriage passed over the bridge, and did not return the salute which, recognising the family arms, he gave it. The gentleman behind the carriage glared at him haughtily. Harry felt terribly alone. He thought he would go back to Captain Franks. The Rachel and her little tossing cabin seemed a cheery spot in comparison to that on which he stood. The inn-folks did not know his name of Warrington. They told him that was my lady in the coach, with her stepdaughter, my Lady Maria, and her daughter, my Lady Fanny; and the young gentleman in the grey frock was Mr. William, and he with powder on the chestnut was my lord. It was the latter had sworn the loudest, and called him a fool; and it was the grey frock which had nearly galloped Harry into the ditch.
The landlord of the Three Castles had shown Harry a bedchamber, but he had refused to have his portmanteaux unpacked, thinking that, for a certainty, the folks of the great house would invite him to theirs. One, two, three hours passed, and there came no invitation. Harry was fain to have his trunks open at last, and to call for his slippers and gown. Just before dark, about two hours after the arrival of the first carriage, a second chariot with four horses had passed over the bridge, and a stout, high-coloured lady, with a very dark pair of eyes, had looked hard at Mr. Warrington. That was the Baroness Bernstein, the landlady said, my lord's aunt, and Harry remembered the first Lady Castlewood had come of a German family. Earl, and Countess, and Baroness, and postillions, and gentlemen, and horses, had all disappeared behind the castle gate, and Harry was fain to go to bed at last, in the most melancholy mood and with a cruel sense of neglect and loneliness in his young heart. He could not sleep, and, besides, ere long, heard a prodigious noise, and cursing, and giggling, and screaming from my landlady's bar, which would have served to keep him awake.
Then Gumbo's voice was heard without, remonstrating, "You cannot go in, sar—my master asleep, sar!" but a shrill voice, with many oaths, which Harry Warrington recognised, cursed Gumbo for a stupid, negro woolly-pate, and he was pushed aside, giving entrance to a flood of oaths into the room, and a young gentleman behind them.
"Beg your pardon, Cousin Warrington," cried the young blasphemer, "are you asleep? Beg your pardon for riding you over on the bridge. Didn't know you—course shouldn't have done it—thought it was a lawyer with a writ—dressed in black, you know. Gad! thought it was Nathan come to nab me." And Mr. William laughed incoherently. It was evident that he was excited with liquor.
"You did me great honour to mistake me for a sheriff's-officer, cousin," says Harry, with great gravity, sitting up in his tall nightcap.
"Gad! I thought it was Nathan, and was going to send you souse into the river. But I ask your pardon. You see I had been drinking at the Bell at Hexton, and the punch is good at the Bell at Hexton. Hullo! you, Davis! a bowl of punch; d'you hear?"
"I have had my share for to-night, cousin, and I should think you have," Harry continues, always in the dignified style.
"You want me to go, Cousin What's-your-name, I see," Mr. William said, with gravity. "You want me to go, and they want me to come, and I didn't want to come. I said, I'd see him hanged first,—that's what I said. Why should I trouble myself to come down all alone of an evening, and look after a fellow I don't care a pin for? Zackly what I said. Zackly what Castlewood said. Why the devil should he go down? Castlewood says, and so said my lady, but the Baroness would have you. It's all the Baroness's doing, and if she says a thing, it must be done; so you must just get up and come." Mr. Esmond delivered these words with the most amiable rapidity and indistinctness, running them into one another, and tacking about the room as he spoke. But the young Virginian was in great wrath. "I tell you what, cousin," he cried, "I won't move for the Countess, or for the Baroness, or for all the cousins in Castlewood." And when the landlord entered the chamber with the bowl of punch, which Mr. Esmond had ordered, the young gentleman in bed called out fiercely to the host, to turn that sot out of the room.
"Sot, you little tobacconist! Sot, you Cherokee!" screams out Mr. William. "Jump out of bed, and I'll drive my sword through your body. Why didn't I do it to-day when I took you for a bailiff—a confounded pettifogging bum-bailiff!" And he went on screeching more oaths and incoherencies, until the landlord, the drawer, the hostler, and all the folks of the kitchen were brought to lead him away. After which Harry Warrington closed his tent round him in sulky wrath, and, no doubt, finally went fast to sleep.
My landlord was very much more obsequious on the next morning when he met his young guest, having now fully learned his name and quality. Other messengers had come from the castle on the previous night to bring both the young gentlemen home, and poor Mr. William, it appeared, had returned in a wheelbarrow, being not altogether unaccustomed to that mode of conveyance. "He never remembers nothin' about it the next day. He is of a real kind nature, Mr. William," the landlord vowed, "and the men get crowns and half-crowns from him by saying that he beat them overnight when he was in liquor. He's the devil when he's tipsy, Mr. William, but when he is sober he is the very kindest of young gentlemen."
As nothing is unknown to writers of biographies of the present kind, it may be as well to state what had occurred within the walls of Castlewood House, whilst Harry Warrington was without, awaiting some token of recognition from his kinsmen. On their arrival at home the family had found the paper on which the lad's name was inscribed, and his appearance occasioned a little domestic council. My Lord Castlewood supposed that must have been the young gentleman whom they had seen on the bridge, and as they had not drowned him they must invite him. Let a man go down with the proper messages, let a servant carry a note. Lady Fanny thought it would be more civil if one of the brothers would go to their kinsman, especially considering the original greeting which they had given. Lord Castlewood had not the slightest objection to his brother William going—yes, William should go. Upon this Mr. William said (with a yet stronger expression) that he would be hanged if he would go. Lady Maria thought the young gentleman whom they had remarked at the bridge was a pretty fellow enough. Castlewood is dreadfully dull, I am sure neither of my brothers do anything to make it amusing. He may be vulgar—no doubt, he is vulgar—but let us see the American. Such was Lady Maria's opinion. Lady Castlewood was neither for inviting nor for refusing him, but for delaying. "Wait till your aunt comes, children; perhaps the Baroness won't like to see the young man; at least, let us consult her before we ask him." And so the hospitality to be offered by his nearest kinsfolk to poor Harry Warrington remained yet in abeyance.
At length the equipage of the Baroness Bernstein made its appearance, and whatever doubt there might be as to the reception of the Virginian stranger, there was no lack of enthusiasm in this generous family regarding their wealthy and powerful kinswoman. The state-chamber had already been prepared for her. The cook had arrived the previous day with instructions to get ready a supper for her such as her ladyship liked. The table sparkled with old plate, and was set in the oak dining-room with the pictures of the family round the walls. There was the late Viscount, his father, his mother, his sister—these two lovely pictures. There was his predecessor by Vandyck, and his Viscountess. There was Colonel Esmond, their relative in Virginia, about whose grandson the ladies and gentlemen of the Esmond family showed such a very moderate degree of sympathy.
The feast set before their aunt, the Baroness, was a very good one, and her ladyship enjoyed it. The supper occupied an hour or two, during which the whole Castlewood family were most attentive to their guest. The Countess pressed all the good dishes upon her, of which she freely partook: the butler no sooner saw her glass empty than he filled it with champagne: the young folks and their mother kept up the conversation, not so much by talking, as by listening appropriately to their friend. She was full of spirits and humour. She seemed to know everybody in Europe, and about those everybodies the wickedest stories. The Countess of Castlewood, ordinarily a very demure, severe woman, and a stickler for the proprieties, smiled at the very worst of these anecdotes; the girls looked at one another and laughed at the maternal signal; the boys giggled and roared with especial delight at their sisters' confusion. They also partook freely of the wine which the butler handed round, nor did they, or their guest, disdain the bowl of smoking punch, which was laid on the table after the supper. Many and many a night, the Baroness said, she had drunk at that table by her father's side. "That was his place," she pointed to the place where the Countess now sat. She saw none of the old plate. That was all melted to pay his gambling debts. She hoped, "Young gentlemen, that you don't play."
"Never, on my word," says Castlewood.
"Never, 'pon honour," says Will—winking at his brother.
The Baroness was very glad to hear they were such good boys. Her face grew redder with the punch; and she became voluble, might have been thought coarse, but that times were different, and those critics were inclined to be especially favourable.
She talked to the boys about their father, their grandfather—other men and women of the house. "The only man of the family was that," she said, pointing (with an arm that was yet beautifully round and white) towards the picture of the military gentleman in the red coat and cuirass, and great black periwig.
"The Virginian? What is he good for? I always thought he was good for nothing but to cultivate tobacco and my grandmother," says my lord, laughing.
She struck her hand upon the table with an energy that made the glasses dance. "I say he was the best of you all. There never was one of the male Esmonds that had more brains than a goose, except him. He was not fit for this wicked, selfish old world of ours, and he was right to go and live out of it. Where would your father have been, young people, but for him?"
"Was he particularly kind to our papa?" says Lady Maria.
"Old stories, my dear Maria!" cries the Countess. "I am sure my dear Earl was very kind to him in giving him that great estate in Virginia."
"Since his brother's death, the lad who has been here to-day is heir to that. Mr. Draper told me so! Peste! I don't know why my father gave up such a property."
"Who has been here to-day?" asked the Baroness, highly excited.
"Harry Esmond Warrington, of Virginia," my lord answered: "a lad whom Will nearly pitched into the river, and whom I pressed my lady the Countess to invite to stay here."
"You mean that one of the Virginian boys has been to Castlewood, and has not been asked to stay here?"
"There is but one of them, my dear creature," interposes the Earl. "The other, you know, has just been——"
"For shame, for shame!"
"Oh! it ain't pleasant, I confess, to be se——"
"Do you mean that a grandson of Henry Esmond, the master of this house, has been here, and none of you have offered him hospitality?"
"Since we didn't know it, and he is staying at the Castles?" interposes Will.
"That he is staying at the Inn, and you are sitting there!" cries the old lady. "This is too bad—call somebody to me. Get me my hood—I'll go to the boy myself. Come with me this instant, my Lord Castlewood."
The young man rose up, evidently in wrath. "Madame the Baroness of Bernstein," he said, "your ladyship is welcome to go; but as for me, I don't choose to have such words as 'shameful' applied to my conduct. I won't go and fetch the young gentleman from Virginia, and I propose to sit here and finish this bowl of punch. Eugene! Don't Eugene me, madam. I know her ladyship has a great deal of money, which you are desirous should remain in our amiable family. You want it more than I do. Cringe for it—I won't." And he sank back in his chair.
The Baroness looked at the family, who held their heads down, and then at my lord, but this time without any dislike. She leaned over to him and said rapidly in German, "I had unright when I said the Colonel was the only man of the family. Thou canst, if thou willest, Eugene." To which remark my lord only bowed.
"If you do not wish an old woman to go out at this hour of the night, let William, at least, go and fetch his cousin," said the Baroness.
"The very thing I proposed to him."
"And so did we—and so did we!" cried the daughters in a breath.
"I am sure, I only wanted the dear Baroness's consent!" said their mother, "and shall be charmed for my part to welcome our young relative."
"Will! Put on thy pattens and get a lantern, and go fetch the Virginian," said my lord.
"And we will have another bowl of punch when he comes," says William, who by this time had already had too much. And he went forth—how we have seen; and how he had more punch; and how ill he succeeded in his embassy.
The worthy lady of Castlewood, as she caught sight of young Harry Warrington by the river-side, must have seen a very handsome and interesting youth, and very likely had reasons of her own for not desiring his presence in her family. All mothers are not eager to encourage the visits of interesting youths of nineteen in families where there are virgins of twenty. If Harry's acres had been in Norfolk or Devon, in place of Virginia, no doubt the good Countess would have been rather more eager in her welcome. Had she wanted him she would have given him her hand readily enough. If our people of ton are selfish, at any rate they show they are selfish; and, being cold-hearted, at least have no hypocrisy of affection.
Why should Lady Castlewood put herself out of the way to welcome the young stranger? Because he was friendless? Only a simpleton could ever imagine such a reason as that. People of fashion, like her ladyship, are friendly to those who have plenty of friends. A poor lad, alone, from a distant country, with only very moderate means, and those not as yet in his own power, with uncouth manners very likely, and coarse provincial habits; was a great lady called upon to put herself out of the way for such a youth? Allons donc! He was quite as well at the alehouse as at the castle.
This, no doubt, was her ladyship's opinion, which her kinswoman, the Baroness Bernstein, who knew her perfectly well, entirely understood. The Baroness, too, was a woman of the world, and, possibly, on occasion, could be as selfish as any other person of fashion. She fully understood the cause of the deference which all the Castlewood family showed to her—mother, and daughter, and sons,—and being a woman of great humour, played upon the dispositions of the various members of this family, amused herself with their greedinesses, their humiliations, their artless respect for her money-box, and clinging attachment to her purse. They were not very rich; Lady Castlewood's own money was settled on her children. The two elder had inherited nothing but flaxen heads from their German mother, and a pedigree of prodigious distinction. But those who had money, and those who had none, were alike eager for the Baroness's; in this matter the rich are surely quite as greedy as the poor.
So if Madam Bernstein struck her hand on the table, and caused the glasses and the persons round it to tremble at her wrath, it was because she was excited with plenty of punch and champagne, which her ladyship was in the habit of taking freely, and because she may have had a generous impulse when generous wine warmed her blood, and felt indignant as she thought of the poor lad yonder, sitting friendless and lonely on the outside of his ancestors' door; not because she was specially angry with her relatives, who she knew would act precisely as they had done.
The exhibition of their selfishness and humiliation alike amused her, as did Castlewood's act of revolt. He was as selfish as the rest of the family, but not so mean; and, as he candidly stated, he could afford the luxury of a little independence, having tolerable estate to fall back upon.
Madam Bernstein was an early woman, restless, resolute, extraordinarily active for her age. She was up long before the languid Castlewood ladies (just home from their London routs and balls) had quitted their feather-beds, or jolly Will had slept off his various potations of punch. She was up, and pacing the green terraces that sparkled with the sweet morning dew, which lay twinkling, also, on a flowery wilderness of trim parterres, and on the crisp walls of the dark box hedges, under which marble fauns and dryads were cooling themselves, whilst a thousand birds sang, the fountains plashed and glittered in the rosy morning sunshine, and the rooks cawed from the great wood.
Had the well-remembered scene (for she had visited it often in childhood) a freshness and charm for her? Did it recall days of innocence and happiness, and did its calm beauty soothe or please, or awaken remorse in her heart? Her manner was more than ordinarily affectionate and gentle, when, presently, after pacing the walks for a half-hour, the person for whom she was waiting came to her. This was our young Virginian, to whom she had despatched an early billet by one of the Lockwoods. The note was signed B. Bernstein, and informed Mr. Esmond Warrington that his relatives at Castlewood, and among them a dear friend of his grandfather, were most anxious that he should come to "Colonel Esmond's house in England." And now, accordingly, the lad made his appearance, passing under the old Gothic doorway, tripping down the steps from one garden terrace to another, hat in hand, his fair hair blowing from his flushed cheeks, his slim figure clad in mourning. The handsome and modest looks, the comely face and person, of the young lad pleased the lady. He made her a low bow which would have done credit to Versailles. She held out a little hand to him, and, as his own palm closed over it, she laid the other hand softly on his ruffle. She looked very kindly and affectionately in the honest blushing face.
"I knew your grandfather very well, Harry," she said. "So you came yesterday to see his picture, and they turned you away, though you know the house was his of right?"
Harry blushed very red. "The servants did not know me. A young gentleman came to me last night," he said, "when I was peevish, and he, I fear, was tipsy. I spoke rudely to my cousin, and would ask his pardon. Your ladyship knows that in Virginia our manners towards strangers are different. I own I had expected another kind of welcome. Was it you, madam, who sent my cousin to me last night?"
"I sent him; but you will find your cousins most friendly to you to-day. You must stay here. Lord Castlewood would have been with you this morning, only I was so eager to see you. There will be breakfast in an hour; and meantime you must talk to me. We will send to the Three Castles for your servant and your baggage. Give me your arm. Stop, I dropped my cane when you came. You shall be my cane."
"My grandfather used to call us his crutches," said Harry.
"You are like him, though you are fair."
"You should have seen—you should have seen George," said the boy, and his honest eyes welled with tears. The recollection of his brother, the bitter pain of yesterday's humiliation, the affectionateness of the present greeting—all, perhaps, contributed to soften the lad's heart. He felt very tenderly and gratefully towards the lady who had received him so warmly. He was utterly alone and miserable a minute since, and here was a home and a kind hand held out to him. No wonder he clung to it. In the hour during which they talked together, the young fellow had poured out a great deal of his honest heart to the kind new-found friend; when the dial told breakfast-time, he wondered to think how much he had told her. She took him to the breakfast-room; she presented him to his aunt, the Countess, and bade him embrace his cousins. Lord Castlewood was frank and gracious enough. Honest Will had a headache, but was utterly unconscious of the proceedings of the past night. The ladies were very pleasant and polite, as ladies of their fashion know how to be. How should Harry Warrington, a simple truth-telling lad from a distant colony, who had only yesterday put his foot upon English shore, know that my ladies, so smiling and easy in demeanour, were furious against him, and aghast at the favour with which Madam Bernstein seemed to regard him?
She was folle of him, talked of no one else, scarce noticed the Castlewood young people, trotted with him over the house, and told him all its story, showed him the little room in the courtyard where his grandfather used to sleep, and a cunning cupboard over the fireplace which had been made in the time of the Catholic persecutions; drove out with him in the neighbouring country, and pointed out to him the most remarkable sites and houses, and had in return the whole of the young man's story.
This brief biography the kind reader will please to accept, not in the precise words in which Mr. Harry Warrington delivered it to Madam Bernstein, but in the form in which it has been cast in the Chapters next ensuing.
CHAPTER III. The Esmonds in Virginia
Henry Esmond, Esq., an office who had served with the rank of Colonel during the wars of Queen Anne's reign, found himself, at its close, compromised in certain attempts for the restoration of the Queen's family to the throne of these realms. Happily for itself, the nation preferred another dynasty; but some of the few opponents of the house of Hanover took refuge out of the three kingdoms, and amongst others, Colonel Esmond was counselled by his friends to go abroad. As Mr. Esmond sincerely regretted the part which he had taken, and as the august Prince who came to rule over England was the most pacable of sovereigns, in a very little time the Colonel's friends found means to make his peace.
Mr. Esmond, it has been said, belonged to the noble English family which takes its title from Castlewood, in the county of Hants; and it was pretty generally known that King James II. and his son had offered the title of Marquis to Colonel Esmond and his father, and that the former might have assumed the (Irish) peerage hereditary in his family, but for an informality which he did not choose to set right. Tired of the political struggles in which he had been engaged, and annoyed by family circumstances in Europe, he preferred to establish himself in Virginia, where he took possession of a large estate conferred by King Charles I. upon his ancestor. Here Mr. Esmond's daughter and grandsons were born, and his wife died. This lady, when she married him, was the widow of the Colonel's kinsman, the unlucky Viscount Castlewood, killed in a duel by Lord Mohun, at the close of King William's reign.
Mr. Esmond called his American house Castlewood, from the patrimonial home in the old country. The whole usages of Virginia, indeed, were fondly modelled after the English customs. It was a loyal colony. The Virginians boasted that King Charles II. had been king in Virginia before he had been king in England. English king and English church were alike faithfully honoured there. The resident gentry were allied to good English families. They held their heads above the Dutch traders of New York, and the money-getting Roundheads of Pennsylvania and New England. Never were people less republican than those of the great province which was soon to be foremost in the memorable revolt against the British Crown.
The gentry of Virginia dwelt on their great lands after a fashion almost patriarchal. For its rough cultivation, each estate had a multitude of hands—of purchased and assigned servants—who were subject to the command of the master. The land yielded their food, live stock, and game. The great rivers swarmed with fish for the taking. From their banks the passage home was clear. Their ships took the tobacco off their private wharves on the banks of the Potomac or the James river, and carried it to London or Bristol,—bringing back English goods and articles of home manufacture in return for the only produce which the Virginian gentry chose to cultivate. Their hospitality was boundless. No stranger was ever sent away from their gates. The gentry received one another, and travelled to each other's houses, in a state almost feudal. The question of Slavery was not born at the time of which we write. To be the proprietor of black servants shocked the feelings of no Virginian gentleman; nor, in truth, was the despotism exercised over the negro race generally a savage one. The food was plenty; the poor black people lazy and not unhappy. You might have preached negro emancipation to Madam Esmond of Castlewood as you might have told her to let the horses run loose out of her stables; she had no doubt but that the whip and the corn-bag were good for both.
Her father may have thought otherwise, being of a sceptical turn on very many points, but his doubts did not break forth in active denial, and he was rather disaffected than rebellious. At one period, this gentleman had taken a part in active life at home, and possibly might have been eager to share its rewards; but in latter days he did not seem to care for them. A something had occurred in his life, which had cast a tinge of melancholy over all his existence. He was not unhappy—to those about him most kind—most affectionate, obsequious even to the women of his family, whom be scarce ever contradicted; but there had been some bankruptcy of his heart, which his spirit never recovered. He submitted to life, rather than enjoyed it, and never was in better spirits than in his last hours when he was going to lay it down.
Having lost his wife, his daughter took the management of the Colonel and his affairs; and he gave them up to her charge with an entire acquiescence. So that he had his books and his quiet, he cared for no more. When company came to Castlewood, he entertained them handsomely, and was of a very pleasant, sarcastical turn. He was not in the least sorry when they went away.
"My love, I shall not be sorry to go myself," he said to his daughter, "and you, though the most affectionate of daughters, will console yourself after a while. Why should I, who am so old, be romantic? You may, who are still a young creature." This he said, not meaning all he said, for the lady whom he addressed was a matter-of-fact little person, with very little romance in her nature.
After fifteen years' residence upon his great Virginian estate, affairs prospered so well with the worthy proprietor, that he acquiesced in his daughter's plans for the building of a mansion much grander and more durable than the plain wooden edifice in which he had been content to live, so that his heirs might have a habitation worthy of their noble name. Several of Madam Warrington's neighbours had built handsome houses for themselves; perhaps it was her ambition to take rank in the country, which inspired this desire for improved quarters. Colonel Esmond, of Castlewood, neither cared for quarters nor for quarterings. But his daughter had a very high opinion of the merit and antiquity of her lineage; and her sire, growing exquisitely calm and good-natured in his serene, declining years, humoured his child's peculiarities in an easy, bantering way,—nay, helped her with his antiquarian learning, which was not inconsiderable, and with his skill in the art of painting, of which he was a proficient. A knowledge of heraldry, a hundred years ago, formed part of the education of most noble ladies and gentlemen: during her visit to Europe, Miss Esmond had eagerly studied the family history and pedigrees, and returned thence to Virginia with a store of documents relative to her family on which she relied with implicit gravity and credence, and with the most edifying volumes then published in France and England, respecting the noble science. These works proved, to her perfect satisfaction, not only that the Esmonds were descended from noble Norman warriors, who came into England along with their victorious chief, but from native English of royal dignity: and two magnificent heraldic trees, cunningly painted by the hand of the Colonel, represented the family springing from the Emperor Charlemagne on the one hand, who was drawn in plate-armour, with his imperial mantle and diadem, and on the other from Queen Boadicea, whom the Colonel insisted upon painting in the light costume of an ancient British queen, with a prodigious gilded crown, a trifling mantle of furs, and a lovely symmetrical person, tastefully tattooed with figures of a brilliant blue tint. From these two illustrious stocks the family-tree rose until it united in the thirteenth century somewhere in the person of the fortunate Esmond who claimed to spring from both.
Of the Warrington family, into which she married, good Madam Rachel thought but little. She wrote herself Esmond Warrington, but was universally called Madam Esmond of Castlewood, when after her father's decease she came to rule over that domain. It is even to be feared that quarrels for precedence in the colonial society occasionally disturbed her temper; for though her father had had a marquis's patent from King James, which he had burned and disowned, she would frequently act as if that document existed and was in full force. She considered the English Esmonds of an inferior dignity to her own branch; and as for the colonial aristocracy, she made no scruple of asserting her superiority over the whole body of them. Hence quarrels and angry words, and even a scuffle or two, as we gather from her notes, at the Governor's assemblies at Jamestown. Wherefore recall the memory of these squabbles? Are not the persons who engaged in them beyond the reach of quarrels now, and has not the republic put an end to these social inequalities? Ere the establishment of Independence, there was no more aristocratic country in the world than Virginia; so the Virginians, whose history we have to narrate, were bred to have the fullest respect for the institutions of home, and the rightful king had not two more faithful little subjects than the young twins of Castlewood.
When the boys' grandfather died, their mother, in great state, proclaimed her eldest son George her successor and heir of the estate; and Harry, George's younger brother by half an hour, was always enjoined to respect his senior. All the household was equally instructed to pay him honour; the negroes, of whom there was a large and happy family, and the assigned servants from Europe, whose lot was made as bearable as it might be under the government of the lady of Castlewood. In the whole family there scarcely was a rebel save Mrs. Esmond's faithful friend and companion, Madam Mountain, and Harry's foster-mother, a faithful negro woman, who never could be made to understand why her child should not be first, who was handsomer, and stronger, and cleverer than his brother, as she vowed; though, in truth, there was scarcely any difference in the beauty, strength, or stature of the twins. In disposition, they were in many points exceedingly unlike; but in feature they resembled each other so closely, that but for the colour of their hair it had been difficult to distinguish them. In their beds, and when their heads were covered with those vast ribboned nightcaps which our great and little ancestors wore, it was scarcely possible for any but a nurse or mother to tell the one from the other child.
Howbeit alike in form, we have said that they differed in temper. The elder was peaceful, studious, and silent; the younger was warlike and noisy. He was quick at learning when he began, but very slow at beginning. No threats of the ferule would provoke Harry to learn in an idle fit, or would prevent George from helping his brother in his lesson. Harry was of a strong military turn, drilled the little negroes on the estate and caned them like a corporal, having many good boxing-matches with them, and never bearing malice if he was worsted;—whereas George was sparing of blows and gentle with all about him. As the custom in all families was, each of the boys had a special little servant assigned him; and it was a known fact that George, finding his little wretch of a blackamoor asleep on his master's bed, sat down beside it and brushed the flies off the child with a feather fan, to the horror of old Gumbo, the child's father, who found his young master so engaged, and to the indignation of Madam Esmond, who ordered the young negro off to the proper officer for a whipping. In vain George implored and entreated—burst into passionate tears, and besought a remission of the sentence. His mother was inflexible regarding the young rebel's punishment, and the little negro went off beseeching his young master not to cry.
A fierce quarrel between mother and son ensued out of this event. Her son would not be pacified. He said the punishment was a shame—a shame; that he was the master of the boy, and no one—no, not his mother,—had a right to touch him; that she might order him to be corrected, and that he would suffer the punishment, as he and Harry often had, but no one should lay a hand on his boy. Trembling with passionate rebellion against what he conceived the injustice of procedure, he vowed—actually shrieking out an oath, which shocked his fond mother and governor, who never before heard such language from the usually gentle child—that on the day he came of age he would set young Gumbo free—went to visit the child in the slaves' quarters, and gave him one of his own toys.
The young black martyr was an impudent, lazy, saucy little personage, who would be none the worse for a whipping, as the Colonel no doubt thought; for he acquiesced in the child's punishment when Madam Esmond insisted upon it, and only laughed in his good-natured way when his indignant grandson called out,
"You let mamma rule you in everything, grandpapa."
"Why, so I do," says grandpapa. "Rachel, my love, the way in which I am petticoat-ridden is so evident that even this baby has found it out."
"Then why don't you stand up like a man?" says little Harry', who always was ready to abet his brother.
Grandpapa looked queerly.
"Because I like sitting down best, my dear," he said. "I am an old gentleman, and standing fatigues me."
On account of a certain apish drollery and humour which exhibited itself in the lad, and a liking for some of the old man's pursuits, the first of the twins was the grandfather's favourite and companion, and would laugh and talk out all his infantine heart to the old gentleman, to whom the younger had seldom a word to say. George was a demure studious boy, and his senses seemed to brighten up in the library, where his brother was so gloomy. He knew the books before he could well-nigh carry them, and read in them long before he could understand them. Harry, on the other hand, was all alive in the stables or in the wood, eager for all parties of hunting and fishing, and promised to be a good sportsman from a very early age. Their grandfather's ship was sailing for Europe once when the boys were children, and they were asked, what present Captain Franks should bring them back? George was divided between books and a fiddle; Harry instantly declared for a little gun: and Madam Warrington (as she then was called) was hurt that her elder boy should have low tastes, and applauded the younger's choice as more worthy of his name and lineage. "Books, papa, I can fancy to be a good choice," she replied to her father, who tried to convince her that George had a right to his opinion, "though I am sure you must have pretty nigh all the books in the world already. But I never can desire—I may be wrong, but I never can desire—that my son, and the grandson of the Marquis of Esmond, should be a fiddler."
"Should be a fiddlestick, my dear," the old Colonel answered.
"Remember that Heaven's ways are not ours, and that each creature born has a little kingdom of thought of his own, which it is a sin in us to invade. Suppose George loves music? You can no more stop him than you can order a rose not to smell sweet, or a bird not to sing."
"A bird! A bird sings from nature; George did not come into the world with a fiddle in his hand," says Mrs. Warrington, with a toss of her head. "I am sure I hated the harpsichord when a chit at Kensington School, and only learned it to please my mamma. Say what you will, dear sir, I can not believe that this fiddling is work for persons of fashion."
"And King David who played the harp, my dear?"
"I wish my papa would read him more, and not speak about him in that way," said Mrs. Warrington.
"Nay, my dear, it was but by way of illustration," the father replied gently. It was Colonel Esmond's nature, as he has owned in his own biography, always to be led by a woman; and, his wife dead, he coaxed and dandled and spoiled his daughter; laughing at her caprices, but humouring them; making a joke of her prejudices, but letting them have their way; indulging, and perhaps increasing, her natural imperiousness of character, though it was his maxim that we can't change dispositions by meddling, and only make hypocrites of our children by commanding them over-much.
At length the time came when Mr. Esmond was to have done with the affairs of this life, and he laid them down as if glad to be rid of their burthen. We must not ring in an opening history with tolling bells, or preface it with a funeral sermon. All who read and heard that discourse, wondered where Parson Broadbent of Jamestown found the eloquence and the Latin which adorned it. Perhaps Mr. Dempster knew, the boys' Scotch tutor, who corrected the proofs of the oration, which was printed, by desire of his Excellency and many persons of honour, at Mr. Franklin's press in Philadelphia. No such sumptuous funeral had ever been seen in the country as that which Madam Esmond Warrington ordained for her father, who would have been the first to smile at that pompous grief. The little lads of Castlewood, almost smothered in black trains and hatbands, headed the procession, and were followed by my Lord Fairfax from Greenway Court, by his Excellency the Governor of Virginia (with his coach), by the Randolphs, the Careys, the Harrisons, the Washingtons, and many others, for the whole county esteemed the departed gentleman, whose goodness, whose high talents, whose benevolence and unobtrusive urbanity had earned for him the just respect of his neighbours. When informed of the event, the family of Colonel Esmond's stepson, the Lord Castlewood of Hampshire in England, asked to be at the charges of the marble slab which recorded the names and virtues of his lordship's mother and her husband; and after due time of preparation, the monument was set up, exhibiting the arms and coronet of the Esmonds, supported by a little chubby group of weeping cherubs, and reciting an epitaph which for once did not tell any falsehoods.
CHAPTER IV. In which Harry finds a New Relative
Kind friends, neighbours hospitable, cordial, even respectful,—an ancient name, a large estate and a sufficient fortune, a comfortable home, supplied with all the necessaries and many of the luxuries of life, and a troop of servants, black and white, eager to do your bidding; good health, affectionate children, and, let us humbly add, a good cook, cellar, and library—ought not a person in the possession of all these benefits to be considered very decently happy? Madam Esmond Warrington possessed all these causes for happiness; she reminded herself of them daily in her morning and evening prayers. She was scrupulous in her devotions, good to the poor, never knowingly did anybody a wrong. Yonder I fancy her enthroned in her principality of Castlewood, the country gentlefolks paying her court, the sons dutiful to her, the domestics tumbling over each other's black heels to do her bidding, the poor whites grateful for her bounty and implicitly taking her doses when they were ill, the smaller gentry always acquiescing in her remarks, and for ever letting her win at backgammon—well, with all these benefits, which are more sure than fate allots to most mortals, I don't think the little Princess Pocahontas, as she was called, was to be envied in the midst of her dominions. The Princess's husband, who was cut off in early life, was as well perhaps out of the way. Had he survived his marriage by many years, they would have quarrelled fiercely, or, he would infallibly have been a henpecked husband, of which sort there were a few specimens still extant a hundred years ago. The truth is, little Madam Esmond never came near man or woman, but she tried to domineer over them. If people obeyed, she was their very good friend; if they resisted, she fought and fought until she or they gave in. We are all miserable sinners that's a fact we acknowledge in public every Sunday—no one announced it in a more clear resolute voice than the little lady. As a mortal, she may have been in the wrong, of course; only she very seldom acknowledged the circumstance to herself, and to others never. Her father, in his old age, used to watch her freaks of despotism, haughtiness, and stubbornness, and amuse himself with them. She felt that his eye was upon her; his humour, of which quality she possessed little herself, subdued and bewildered her. But, the Colonel gone, there was nobody else whom she was disposed to obey,—and so I am rather glad for my part that I did not live a hundred years ago at Castlewood in Westmorland County in Virginia. I fancy, one would not have been too happy there. Happy, who is happy? Was not there a serpent in Paradise itself? and if Eve had been perfectly happy beforehand, would she have listened to him?
The management of the house of Castlewood had been in the hands of the active little lady long before the Colonel slept the sleep of the just. She now exercised a rigid supervision over the estate; dismissed Colonel Esmond's English factor and employed a new one; built, improved, planted, grew tobacco, appointed a new overseer, and imported a new tutor. Much as she loved her father, there were some of his maxims by which she was not inclined to abide. Had she not obeyed her papa and mamma during all their lives, as a dutiful daughter should? So ought all children to obey their parents, that their days might be long in the land. The little Queen domineered over her little dominion, and the Princes her sons were only her first subjects. Ere long she discontinued her husband's name of Warrington and went by the name of Madam Esmond in the country. Her family pretensions were known there. She had no objection to talk of the Marquis's title which King James had given to her father and grandfather. Her papa's enormous magnanimity might induce him to give up his titles and rank to the younger branch of the family, and to her half-brother, my Lord Castlewood and his children; but she and her sons were of the elder branch of the Esmonds, and she expected that they should be treated accordingly. Lord Fairfax was the only gentleman in the colony of Virginia to whom she would allow precedence over her. She insisted on the pas before all Lieutenant-Governors' and Judges' ladies; before the wife of the Governor of a colony she would, of course, yield as to the representative of the Sovereign. Accounts are extant, in the family papers and letters, of one or two tremendous battles which Madam fought with the wives of colonial dignitaries upon these questions of etiquette. As for her husband's family of Warrington, they were as naught in her eyes. She married an English baronet's younger son out of Norfolk to please her parents, whom she was always bound to obey. At the early age at which she married—a chit out of a boarding-school—she would have jumped overboard if her papa had ordered. "And that is always the way with the Esmonds," she said.
The English Warringtons were not over-much flattered by the little American Princess's behaviour to them, and her manner of speaking about them. Once a year a solemn letter used to be addressed to the Warrington family, and to her noble kinsmen the Hampshire Esmonds; but a Judge's lady with whom Madam Esmond had quarrelled returning to England out of Virginia chanced to meet Lady Warrington, who was in London with Sir Miles attending Parliament, and this person repeated some of the speeches which the Princess Pocahontas was in the habit of making regarding her own and her husband's English relatives, and my Lady Warrington, I suppose, carried the story to my Lady Castlewood; after which the letters from Virginia were not answered, to the surprise and wrath of Madam Esmond, who speedily left off writing also.
So this good woman fell out with her neighbours, with her relatives, and, as it must be owned, with her sons also.
A very early difference which occurred between the Queen and Crown Prince arose out of the dismissal of Mr. Dempster, the lad's tutor and the late Colonel's secretary. In her father's life Madam Esmond bore him with difficulty, or it should be rather said Mr. Dempster could scarce put up with her. She was jealous of books somehow, and thought your bookworms dangerous folks, insinuating bad principles. She had heard that Dempster was a Jesuit in disguise, and the poor fellow was obliged to go build himself a cabin in a clearing, and teach school and practise medicine where he could find customers among the sparse inhabitants of the province. Master George vowed he never would forsake his old tutor, and kept his promise. Harry had always loved fishing and sporting better than books, and he and the poor Dominie had never been on terms of close intimacy. Another cause of dispute presently ensued.
By the death of an aunt, and at his father's demise, the heir of Mr. George Warrington became entitled to a sum of six thousand pounds, of which their mother was one of the trustees. She never could be made to understand that she was not the proprietor, and not merely the trustee of this money; and was furious with the London lawyer, the other trustee, who refused to send it over at her order. "Is not all I have my sons'?" she cried, "and would I not cut myself into little pieces to serve them? With the six thousand pounds I would have bought Mr. Boulter's estate and negroes, which would have given us a good thousand pounds a year, and made a handsome provision for my Harry." Her young friend and neighbour, Mr. Washington of Mount Vernon, could not convince her that the London agent was right, and must not give up his trust except to those for whom he held it. Madam Esmond gave the London lawyer a piece of her mind, and, I am sorry to say, informed Mr. Draper that he was an insolent pettifogger, and deserved to be punished for doubting the honour of a mother and an Esmond. It must be owned that the Virginian Princess had a temper of her own.
George Esmond, her firstborn, when this little matter was referred to him, and his mother vehemently insisted that he should declare himself, was of the opinion of Mr. Washington, and Mr. Draper, the London lawyer. The boy said he could not help himself. He did not want the money: he would be very glad to think otherwise, and to give the money to his mother, if he had the power. But Madam Esmond would not hear any of these reasons. Feelings were her reasons. Here was a chance of making Harry's fortune—dear Harry, who was left with such a slender younger brother's; pittance—and the wretches in London would not help him; his own brother, who inherited all her papa's estate, would not help him. To think of a child of hers being so mean at fourteen year of age! etc. etc. Add tears, scorn, frequent innuendo, long estrangement, bitter outbreak, passionate appeals to Heaven, and the like, and we may fancy the widow's state of mind. Are there not beloved beings of the gentler sex who argue in the same way nowadays? The book of female logic is blotted all over with tears, and Justice in their courts is for ever in a passion.
This occurrence set the widow resolutely saving for her younger son, for whom, as in duty bound, she was eager to make a portion. The fine buildings were stopped which the Colonel had commenced at Castlewood, who had freighted ships from New York with Dutch bricks, and imported, at great charges, mantelpieces, carved cornice-work, sashes and glass, carpets and costly upholstery from home. No more books were bought. The agent had orders to discontinue sending wine. Madam Esmond deeply regretted the expense of a fine carriage which she had had from England, and only rode in it to church groaning in spirit, and crying to the sons opposite her, "Harry, Harry! I wish I had put by the money for thee, my poor portionless child—three hundred and eighty guineas of ready money to Messieurs Hatchett!"
"You will give me plenty while you live, and George will give me plenty when you die," says Harry, gaily.
"Not unless he changes in spirit, my dear," says the lady, with a grim glance at her elder boy. "Not unless Heaven softens his heart and teaches him charity, for which I pray day and night; as Mountain knows; do you not, Mountain?"
Mrs. Mountain, Ensign Mountain's widow, Madam Esmond's companion and manager, who took the fourth seat in the family coach on these Sundays, said, "Humph! I know you are always disturbing yourself and crying out about this legacy, and I don't see that there is any need."
"Oh no! no need!" cries the widow, rustling in her silks; "of course I have no need to be disturbed, because my eldest born is a disobedient son and an unkind brother—because he has an estate, and my poor Harry, bless him, but a mess of pottage."
George looked despairingly at his mother until he could see her no more for eyes welled up with tears. "I wish you would bless me, too, O my mother!" he said, and burst into a passionate fit of weeping. Harry's arms were in a moment round his brother's neck, and he kissed George a score of times.
"Never mind, George. I know whether you are a good brother or not. Don't mind what she says. She don't mean it."
"I do mean it, child," cries the mother. Would to Heaven——"
"HOLD YOUR TONGUE, I SAY" roars out Harry. "It's a shame to speak so to him, ma'am."
"And so it is, Harry," says Mrs. Mountain, shaking his hand. "You never said a truer word in your life."
"Mrs. Mountain, do you dare to set my children against me?" cries the widow. "From this very day, madam——"
"Turn me and my child into the street? Do," says Mrs. Mountain. "That will be a fine revenge because the English lawyer won't give you the boy's money. Find another companion who will tell you black is white, and flatter you: it is not my way, madam. When shall I go? I shan't be long a-packing. I did not bring much into Castlewood House, and I shall not take much out."
"Hush! the bells are ringing for church, Mountain. Let us try, if you please, and compose ourselves," said the widow, and she looked with eyes of extreme affection, certainly at one—perhap at both—of her children. George kept his head down, and Harry, who was near, got quite close to him during the sermon, and sat with his arm round his brother's neck.
Harry had proceeded in his narrative after his own fashion, interspersing it with many youthful ejaculations, and answering a number of incidental questions asked by his listener. The old lady seemed never tired of hearing him. Her amiable hostess and her daughters came more than once, to ask if she would ride, or walk, or take a dish of tea, or play a game at cards; but all these amusements Madam Bernstein declined, saying that she found infinite amusement in Harry's conversation. Especially when any of the Castlewood family were present, she redoubled her caresses, insisted upon the lad speaking close to her ear, and would call out to the others, "Hush, my dears! I can't hear our cousin speak." And they would quit the room, striving still to look pleased.
"Are you my cousin, too?" asked the honest boy. "You see kinder than my other cousins."
Their talk took place in the wainscoted parlour, where the family had taken their meals in ordinary for at least two centuries past, and which, as we have said, was hung with portraits of the race. Over Madam Bernstein's great chair was a Kneller, one of the most brilliant pictures of the gallery, representing a young lady of three or four and twenty, in the easy flowing dress and loose robes of Queen Anne's time—a hand on a cushion near her, a quantity of auburn hair parted off a fair forehead, and flowing over pearly shoulders and a lovely neck. Under this sprightly picture the lady sate with her knitting-needles.
When Harry asked, "Are you my cousin, too?" she said, "That picture is by Sir Godfrey, who thought himself the greatest painter in the world. But he was not so good as Lely, who painted your grandmother—my—my Lady Castlewood, Colonel Esmond's wife; nor he so good as Sir Anthony Van Dyck, who painted your great-grandfather, yonder—and who looks, Harry, a much finer gentleman than he was. Some of us are painted blacker than we are. Did you recognise your grandmother in that picture? She had the loveliest fair hair and shape of any woman of her time."
"I fancied I knew the portrait from instinct, perhaps, and a certain likeness to my mother."
"Did Mrs. Warrington—I beg her pardon, I think she calls herself Madam or my Lady Esmond now——?"
"They call my mother so in our province," said the boy.
"Did she never tell you of another daughter her mother had in England, before she married your grandfather?"
"She never spoke of one."
"Nor your grandfather?"
"Never. But in his picture-books, which he constantly made for us children, he used to draw a head very like that above your ladyship. That, and Viscount Francis, and King James III., he drew a score of times, I am sure."
"And the picture over me reminds you of no one, Harry?"
"Ah! Here is a sermon!" says the lady, with a sigh. "Harry, that was my face once—yes, it was—and then I was called Beatrix Esmond. And your mother is my half-sister, child, and she has never even mentioned my name!"
CHAPTER V. Family Jars
As Harry Warrington related to his new-found relative the simple story of his adventures at home, no doubt Madam Bernstein, who possessed a great sense of humour and a remarkable knowledge of the world, formed her judgment respecting the persons and events described; and if her opinion was not in all respects favourable, what can be said but that men and women are imperfect, and human life not entirely pleasant or profitable? The court and city-bred lady recoiled at the mere thought of her American sister's countrified existence. Such a life would be rather wearisome to most city-bred ladies. But little Madam Warrington knew no better, and was satisfied with her life, as indeed she was with herself in general. Because you and I are epicures or dainty feeders, it does not follow that Hodge is miserable with his homely meal of bread and bacon. Madam Warrington had a life of duties and employments which might be humdrum, but at any rate were pleasant to her. She was a brisk little woman of business, and all the affairs of her large estate came under her cognisance. No pie was baked at Castlewood but her little finger was in it. She set the maids to their spinning, she saw the kitchen wenches at their work, she trotted afield on her pony, and oversaw the overseers and the negro hands as they worked in the tobacco-and corn-fields. If a slave was ill, she would go to his quarters in any weather, and doctor him with great resolution. She had a book full of receipts after the old fashion, and a closet where she distilled waters and compounded elixirs, and a medicine-chest which was the terror of her neighbours. They trembled to be ill, lest the little lady should be upon them with her decoctions and her pills.
A hundred years back there were scarce any towns in Virginia; the establishments of the gentry were little villages in which they and their vassals dwelt. Rachel Esmond ruled like a little queen in Castlewood; the princes, her neighbours, governed their estates round about. Many of these were rather needy potentates, living plentifully but in the roughest fashion, having numerous domestics whose liveries were often ragged; keeping open houses, and turning away no stranger from their gates; proud, idle, fond of all sorts of field sports as became gentlemen of good lineage. The widow of Castlewood was as hospitable as her neighbours, and a better economist than most of them. More than one, no doubt, would have had no objection to share her life-interest in the estate, and supply the place of papa to her boys. But where was the man good enough for a person of her ladyship's exalted birth? There was a talk of making the Duke of Cumberland viceroy, or even king, over America. Madam Warrington's gossips laughed, and said she was waiting for him. She remarked, with much gravity and dignity, that persons of as high birth as his Royal Highness had made offers of alliance to the Esmond family.
She had, as lieutenant under her, an officer's widow who has been before named, and who had been Madam Esmond's companion at school, as her late husband had been the regimental friend of the late Mr. Warrington. When the English girls at the Kensington Academy, where Rachel Esmond had her education, teased and tortured the little American stranger, and laughed at the princified airs which she gave herself from a very early age, Fanny Parker defended and befriended her. They both married ensigns in Kingsley's. They became tenderly attached to each other. It was "my Fanny" and "my Rachel" in the letters of the young ladies. Then, my Fanny's husband died in sad out-at-elbowed circumstances, leaving no provision for his widow and her infant; and, in one of his annual voyages, Captain Franks brought over Mrs. Mountain, in the Young Rachel, to Virginia.
There was plenty of room in Castlewood House, and Mrs. Mountain served to enliven the place. She played cards with the mistress: she had some knowledge of music, and could help the eldest boy in that way: she laughed and was pleased with the guests: she saw to the strangers' chambers, and presided over the presses and the linen. She was a kind, brisk, jolly-looking widow, and more than one unmarried gentleman of the colony asked her to change her name for his own. But she chose to keep that of Mountain, though, and perhaps because, it had brought her no good fortune. One marriage was enough for her, she said. Mr. Mountain had amiably spent her little fortune and his own. Her last trinkets went to pay his funeral; and, as long as Madam Warrington would keep her at Castlewood, she preferred a home without a husband to any which as yet had been offered to her in Virginia. The two ladies quarrelled plentifully; but they loved each other: they made up their differences: they fell out again, to be reconciled presently. When either of the boys was ill, each lady vied with the other in maternal tenderness and care. In his last days and illness, Mrs. Mountain's cheerfulness and kindness had been greatly appreciated by the Colonel, whose memory Madam Warrington regarded more than that of any living person. So that, year after year, when Captain Franks would ask Mrs. Mountain, in his pleasant way, whether she was going back with him that voyage? she would decline, and say that she proposed to stay a year more.
And when suitors came to Madam Warrington, as come they would, she would receive their compliments and attentions kindly enough, and asked more than one of these lovers whether it was Mrs. Mountain he came after? She would use her best offices with Mountain. Fanny was the best creature, was of a good English family, and would make any gentleman happy. Did the Squire declare it was to her and not her dependant that he paid his addresses; she would make him her gravest curtsey, say that she really had been utterly mistaken as to his views, and let him know that the daughter of the Marquis of Esmond lived for her people and her sons, and did not propose to change her condition. Have we not read how Queen Elizabeth was a perfectly sensible woman of business, and was pleased to inspire not only terror and awe, but love in the bosoms of her subjects? So the little Virginian princess had her favourites, and accepted their flatteries, and grew tired of them, and was cruel or kind to them as suited her wayward imperial humour. There was no amount of compliment which she would not graciously receive and take as her due. Her little foible was so well known that the wags used to practise upon it. Rattling Jack Firebrace of Henrico county had free quarters for months at Castlewood, and was a prime favourite with the lady there, because he addressed verses to her which he stole out of the pocket-books. Tom Humbold of Spotsylvania wagered fifty hogsheads against five that he would make her institute an order of knighthood, and won his wager.
The elder boy saw these freaks and oddities of his good mother's disposition, and chafed and raged at them privately. From very early days he revolted when flatteries and compliments were paid to the little lady, and strove to expose them with his juvenile satire; so that his mother would say gravely, "The Esmonds were always of a jealous disposition, and my poor boy takes after my father and mother in this." George hated Jack Firebrace and Tom Humbold, and all their like; whereas Harry went out sporting with them, and fowling, and fishing, and cock-fighting, and enjoyed all the fun of the country.
One winter, after their first tutor had been dismissed, Madam Esmond took them to Williamsburg, for such education as the schools and college there afforded, and there it was the fortune of the family to listen to the preaching of the famous Mr. Whitfield, who had come into Virginia, where the habits and preaching of the established clergy were not very edifying. Unlike many of the neighbouring provinces, Virginia was a Church of England colony: the clergymen were paid by the State and had glebes allotted to them; and, there being no Church of England bishop as yet in America, the colonists were obliged to import their divines from the mother-country. Such as came were not, naturally, of the very best or most eloquent kind of pastors. Noblemen's hangers-on, insolvent parsons who had quarrelled with justice or the bailiff, brought their stained cassocks into the colony in the hopes of finding a living there. No wonder that Whitfield's great voice stirred those whom harmless Mr. Broadbent, the Williamsburg chaplain, never could awaken. At first the boys were as much excited as their mother by Mr. Whitfield: they sang hymns, and listened to him with fervour, and, could he have remained long enough among them, Harry and George had both worn black coats probably instead of epaulettes. The simple boys communicated their experiences to one another, and were on the daily and nightly look-out for the sacred "call," in the hope or the possession of which such a vast multitude of Protestant England was thrilling at the time.
But Mr. Whitfield could not stay always with the little congregation of Williamsburg. His mission was to enlighten the whole benighted people of the Church, and from the East to the West to trumpet the truth and bid slumbering sinners awaken. However, he comforted the widow with precious letters, and promised to send her a tutor for her sons who should be capable of teaching them not only profane learning, but of strengthening and confirming them in science much more precious.
In due course, a chosen vessel arrived from England. Young Mr. Ward had a voice as loud as Mr. Whitfield's, and could talk almost as readily and for as long a time. Night and evening the hall sounded with his exhortations. The domestic negroes crept to the doors to listen to him. Other servants darkened the porch windows with their crisp heads to hear him discourse. It was over the black sheep of the Castlewood flock that Mr. Ward somehow had the most influence. These woolly lamblings were immensely affected by his exhortations, and, when he gave out the hymn, there was such a negro chorus about the house as might be heard across the Potomac—such a chorus as would never have been heard in the Colonel's time—for that worthy gentleman had a suspicion of all cassocks, and said he would never have any controversy with a clergyman but upon backgammon. Where money was wanted for charitable purposes no man was more ready, and the good, easy Virginian clergyman, who loved backgammon heartily, too, said that the worthy Colonel's charity must cover his other shortcomings.
Ward was a handsome young man. His preaching pleased Madam Esmond from the first, and, I daresay, satisfied her as much as Mr. Whitfield's. Of course it cannot be the case at the present day when they are so finely educated, but women, a hundred years ago, were credulous, eager to admire and believe, and apt to imagine all sorts of excellences in the object of their admiration. For weeks, nay, months, Madam Esmond was never tired of hearing Mr. Ward's great glib voice and voluble commonplaces: and, according to her wont, she insisted that her neighbours should come and listen to him, and ordered them to be converted. Her young favourite, Mr. Washington, she was especially anxious to influence; and again and again pressed him to come and stay at Castlewood and benefit by the spiritual advantages there to be obtained. But that young gentleman found he had particular business which called him home or away from home, and always ordered his horse of evenings when the time was coming for Mr. Ward's exercises. And—what boys are just towards their pedagogue?—the twins grew speedily tired and even rebellious under their new teacher.
They found him a bad scholar, a dull fellow, and ill-bred to boot. George knew much more Latin and Greek than his master, and caught him in perpetual blunders and false quantities. Harry, who could take much greater liberties than were allowed to his elder brother, mimicked Ward's manner of eating and talking, so that Mrs. Mountain and even Madam Esmond were forced to laugh, and little Fanny Mountain would crow with delight. Madam Esmond would have found the fellow out for a vulgar quack but for her sons' opposition, which she, on her part, opposed with her own indomitable will. "What matters whether he has more or less of profane learning?" she asked; "in that which is most precious, Mr. W. is able to be a teacher to all of us. What if his manners are a little rough? Heaven does not choose its elect from among the great and wealthy. I wish you knew one book, children, as well as Mr. Ward does. It is your wicked pride—the pride of all the Esmonds—which prevents you from listening to him. Go down on your knees in your chamber and pray to be corrected of that dreadful fault." Ward's discourse that evening was about Naaman the Syrian, and the pride he had in his native rivers of Abana and Pharpar, which he vainly imagined to be superior to the healing waters of Jordan—the moral being, that he, Ward, was the keeper and guardian of the undoubted waters of Jordan, and that the unhappy, conceited boys must go to perdition unless they came to him.