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Cecil Castlemaine's gage, and other novelettes online

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'BERKELEY \
LIBRARY
UNIVERSITY OF
CALIFORNU /



CECIL CASTLEMAINE'S GAGE,



AND OTHER NOVELETTES,



BY OUIDA,



AUTHOR OF ' FOLLE-FARINE/ ' IDALIA,' 'UNDER T\VO FLAGS,'
'TWO LITTLE WOODEN SHOES,' ETC.




NEW EDITION.



CHATTO AND WINDUS, PICCADILLY.



CONTENTS.



PAGfc

CASTLEMAINE'S GAGE; OR, THE STORY OF A BRQIDERED

SHIELD ....... i

LITTLE GRAND AND THE MARCHIONESS ; OR OUR MALTESE PEERAGE 23

LADY MARABOUT'S TROUBLES ; OR> THE WORRIES OF A CHAPERONE 61
A STUDY A LA LOUIS QUINZE ; OR, PENDANT TO A PASTEL BY LA

TOUR . . . i . . ,l66

" DEADLY DASH.*' A STORY TOLD ON THE OFF DAY. . 1 86

THE GENERAL'S MATCH-MAKING ; OR, COACHES AND COUSINSHIP . 211

THE STORY OF A CRAYON-HEAD J OR A DOUBLE-DOWN LEAF IN A

MAN'S LIFE ...... 244

THE BEAUTY OF VICQ D*A2YR J OR, NOT AT ALL A PROPER PERSON 27 1
A StUDY A LA LOUIS QUATORZE : PENDANT TO A PORTRAIT BY

MIGNARD } i 295

A LINE IN THE "-DAILY :" WHO DID IT, AND WHO WAS ftONE BYlT 313

VITZ'S ELECTION J OR, BLUE AND YELLOW . . . 346

* ' REDEEMED," AN EPISODE WITH THE CONFEDERATE HORSE . 386

THE MARQUIS'S TACTICS ; OR, LORD GLEN'S WAGER . . 405

ism GALAHAD'S RAID : AN ADVENTURE ON THE SWEET WATERS . 428



816



CECIL CASTLEMAIM'S GAGE;

OK,
THE STOHY OF A BROIDEKED SHIELD.



CECIL CASTLEMAitfE was the beauty of her county and her
line, the handsomest of all the handsome women that had
graced her race, when she moved a century and a half ago
down the stately staircase and through the gilded and tapes-
tried halls of Lilliesford. The Town had run mad after her,
and her face levelled politics, and was cited as admiringly by
the Whigs at St. James's as by the Tories at the Cocoa-tree,
by the beaux and Mohocks at Garraway's as by the alumni at
the Grecian, by the wits at Will's as by the fops at Ozinda's.

Wherever she went, whether to the Haymarket or the
Opera, to the 'Change for a fan or the palace for a state ball,
to Drury Lane to see Pastoral Philips's dreary dilution of
Eacine, or to some fair chief of her faction for basset and
ombre, she was surrounded by the best men of her time, and
hated by Whig beauties with virulent wrath, for she was a
Tory to the backbone, indeed a Jacobite at heart; worshipped
Bolingbroke, detested Marlborough and Eugene, believed in
all the horrors of the programme said to have been plotted by
the Whigs for the anniversary show of 1711, and was thought
to have prompted the satire on those fair politicians who are
disguised as Rosalinda and Nigranilla in the 81st paper of
the Spectator.

Cecil Castlemaine was the greatest beauty of her day r
lovelier still at four-and-twenty than she had been at seven-
teen, unwedded, though the highest coronets in the land had
been offered to her ; far above the coquetries and minauderics



2 CECIL CASTL&MAIN&S GAG.

of her friends, far above the imitation of the affectations of
"Lady Betty Modley's skuttle," or need of practising the Fan
exercise; haughty, peerless, radiant, unwon nay, more
untouched ; for the finest gentleman on the town could not
flatter himself that he had ever stirred the slightest trace of
interest in her, nor boast, as he stood in the inner circle at
the Chocolate-house (unless, indeed, he lied more impudently
than Tom Wharton himself), that he had ever been honoured
by a glance of encouragement from the Earl's daughter. She
was too proud to cheapen herself with coquetry, too fastidious
to care for her conquests over those who whispered to her
through ISTicolini's song, vied to have the privilege of carrying
her fan, drove past her windows in Soho-square, crowded
about her in St. James's Park, paid court even to her little
spaniel Indamara, and, to catch but a glimpse of her brocaded
train as it swept a ball-room floor, would leave even their play
at the Groom Porter's, Mrs. Oldfield in the green-room, a night
hunt with Mohun and their brother Mohocks, a circle of wits
gathered " within the steam of the coffee-pot" at WiU's, a
dinner at Halifax's, a supper at Bolingbroke's whatever, ac-
cording to their several tastes, made their best entertainment
and was hardest to quit.

The highest suitors of the day sought her smile and sued
for her hand ; men left the Court and the Mall to join the
Flanders army before the lines at Bouchain less for loyal love
of England tlian hopeless love of Cecil Castlemain. Her
father vainly urged her not to fling away offers that all the
women at St. James's envied her. She was untouched and
unwon, and when her friends, the court beauties, the fine
ladies, the coquettes of quality, rallied her on her coldness (envy-
ing her her conquests), she would smile her slight proud smile
and bow her stately head. "Perhaps she was cold; she might
be ; they were personable men ? Oh yes ! she had nothing to
say against them. His Grace of Belamour ? A pretty wit,
without doubt. Lord Millamont 1 ? Diverting, but a coxcomb.
He had beautiful hands ; it was a pity he was always thinking
of them ! Sir Gage Eivers ? As obsequious a lover as the
man in the ' Way of the World/ but she had heard he was
very boastful and facetious at women over his chocolate at
Ozinda's. The Earl of Argent 1 A gallant soldier, surely,
but whatever he might protest, no mistress would ever rival



CASTLEMAIN&S GAG. 3

with him the dice at the Groom Porter's. Lord Philip Bellairs?
A proper gentleman : no fault in him ; a bel esprit and an
elegant courtier ; pleased many, no doubt, but he did not
please her overmuch. Perhaps her taste was too finical, or
her character too cold, as they said. She preferred it should
be so. When you were content it were folly to seek a change.
For her part, she failed to comprehend how women could
stoop to flutter their fans and choose their ribbons, and rack
their tirewomen's brains for new pulvillios, and lappets, and
devices, and practise their curtsey and recovery before their
pier-plass, for no better aim or stake than to draw the glance
and win the praise of men for whom they cared nothing. A
Woman who had the eloquence of beauty and a true pride
should be above heed for such affectations, pleasure in such
applause !"

So she would put them all aside and turn the tables on her
friends, and go on her own way, proud, peerless, Cecil Castle-
maine, conquering and unconquered ; and Steele must have
had her name in his thoughts, and honoured it heartily and
sincerely, when he wrote one Tuesday, on the 21st of October,
under the domino of his Church Coquette, " I say I do
honour to those who can be coquettes and are not such, but I
despise all who would be so, and, in despair of arriving at it
themselves, hate and villify all those who can." A definition
justly drawn by his keen, quick graver, though doubtless it
only excited the ire of, and was entirely lost upon, those who
read the paper over their dish of bohea, or over their toilette,
while they shifted a patch for an hour before they could de-
termine it, or regretted the loss of ten guineas at crimp.

Cecil Castlemaine was the beauty of the Town : when she
sat at Drury Lane on the Tory side of the house, the de-
youtest admirer of Oldfield or Mrs. Porter scarcely heard a
word of the Heroic Daughter or the Amorous Widow, and the
"beau fullest of his own dear self" forgot his silver-fringed
gloves, his medallion snuff-box, his knotted cravat, his clouded
cane, the slaughter that he planned to do, from gazing at her
where she sat, as though she were reigning sovereign at St.
James's, the Castlemaine diamonds flashing crescent-like above
her brow. At church and court, at park and assembly, there
were none who could eclipse that haughty gentlewoman; there-
fore her fond women friends, who had caressed her so warmly

12



4 ECtL CASTLEMAIX&S GAGE.

and so gracefully, and pulled her to pieces behind her back,
if they could, so eagerly over their dainty cups of tea in an
afternoon visit, were glad, one and all, when on " Barnaby-
bright," Anglice, the 22nd (then the llth) of June, the great
Castlemaine chariot, with its three herons blazoned on its
coronetted panels, its laced liveries and gilded harness, rolled
over the heavy, ill-made roads down into the country in
almost princely pomp, the peasants pouring out from the way-
side cottages to stare at my lord's coach.

It was said in the town that a portly divine, who wore his
scarf as one of the chaplains to the Earl of Castlemaine, had
prattled somewhat indiscreetly at Child's of his patron's poli-
tics ; that certain cypher letters had passed the Channel en-
closed in chocolate cakes as soon as French goods were again
imported after the peace of Utrecht ; that gentlemen in high
places were strongly suspected of mischievous designs against
the tranquillity of the country and government ; that the Earl
had, among others, received a friendly hint from a relative in
power to absent himself for a while from the Court where he
was not best trusted, and the town where an incautious word
might be picked up and lead to Tower-hill, and amuse him-
self at his goodly castle of Lilliesford, where the red deer
would not spy upon him, and the dark beech-woods would
tell no tales. And the ladies of quality, her dear friends and
sisters, were glad when they heard it as they punted at basset
and fluttered their fans complacently. They would have the
field for themselves, for a season, while Cecil Castlemaine was
immured in her manor of Lilliesford ; would be free of her
beauty to eclipse them at the next birthday, be quit of their
most dreaded rival, their most omnipotent leader of fashion :
and they rejoiced at the whisper of the cypher letter, the
damaging gossipry of the Whig coffee-houses, the bad repute
into which my Lord Earl had grown at St. James's, at the
misfortune of their friend, in a word, as human nature, mas-
culine or feminine, will ever do to its shame be it spoken
unless the fomes peccati be more completely wrung out of it
than it has ever been since the aged Gabriel performed that
work of purification on the infant Mahomet.

It was the June of the year '15, and the coming disaffec-
tion was seething and boiling secretly among the Tories ; the
impeachment of Ormond and Bolingbroke had strengthened



\

CECIL CASTLEMAINE S GAGE. 5

the distaste to tlie new-come Hanoverian pack, their attainder
had been the blast of air needed to excite the smouldering
wood to flame, the gentlemen of that party in the South began
to grow impatient of the intrusion of the distant German
branch, to think lovingly of the old legitimate line, and to
feel something of the chafing irritation of the gentlemen of
the North, who were fretting like staghounds held in leash.

Envoys passed to and fro between St. Germain, and Jaco-
bite nobles, priests of the church that had fallen out of favour
and were typified as the Scarlet Woman by a rival who,
though successful, was still bitter, plotted with ecclesiastical
relish in the task ; letters were conveyed in rolls of innocent
lace, plans were forwarded in frosted confections, messages
were passed in invisible cypher that defied investigation.
The times were dangerous ; full of plot and counter-plot, of
risk and danger, of fomenting projects and hidden dis-
affection times in which men, living habitually over mines,
learned to like the uncertainty, and to think life flavourless
without the chance of losing it any hour ; and things being
in this state, the Earl of Castlemaine deemed it prudent to
take the counsel of his friend in power, and retire from
London for a while, perhaps for the safety of his own person,
perhaps for the advancement of his cause, either of which
were easier ensured at his seat in the western counties than
amidst the Whigs of the capital.

The castle of Lilliesford was bowered in the thick woods of
the western counties, a giant pile built by JSTorman masons.
Troops of deer herded under the gold-green beechen-boughs,
the sunlight glistened through the aisles of the trees', and
quivered down on to the thick moss, and ferns, and tangled
grass that grew under the park woodlands ; the water-lilies
clustered on the river, and the swans " floated double, swan
and shadow," under the leaves that swept into the water ;
then, when Cecil Castlemaine came down to share her father's
retirement, as now, when her name and titles on the gold
j)late of a coffin that lies with others of her race in the
mausoleum across the park, where winter snows and summer
sun-rays are alike to those who sleep within, is all that tells
at Lilliesford of the loveliest woman of her time who once
reigned there as mistress.

The country was in its glad green midsummer beauty, and



6 CECIL CASTLEMAINE S GAGE.

the musk-rosebuds bloomed in profuse luxuriance over the
chill marble of the terraces, and scattered their delicate
odorous petals in fragrant showers on the sward of the
lawns, when Cecil Castlemaine came down to what she
termed her exile. The morning was fair and cloudless, its
sunbeams piercing through the darkest glades in the wood-
lands, the thickest shroud of the ivy, the deepest-hued pane
of the mullioned windows, as she passed down the great stair-
case where lords and gentlewomen of her race gazed on her
from the canvas of Lely and Jamesone, Bourdain and
Vandyke, crossed the hall with her dainty step, so stately yet
so light, and standing by the window of her own bower-room,
was lured out on to the terrace overlooking the west side of
the park.

She made such a picture as Vandyke would have liked to
paint, with her golden glow upon her, and the musk-roses
clustering about her round the pilasters of marble the white
chill marble to which Belamour and many other of her lovers
of the court and town had often likened her. Vandyke
would have lingered lovingly on the hand that rested on her
staghound's head, would have caught her air of court-like
grace and dignity, would have painted with delighted fidelity
her deep azure eyes, her proud brow, her delicate lips arched
haughtily like a Cupid's bow, would have picked out every
fold of her sweeping train, every play of light on her silken
skirts, every dainty tracery of her point-lace. Yet even
painted by Sir Anthony, that perfect master of art and of
elegance, though more finished it could have hardly been
more faithful, more instinct with grace, and life, and dignity,
than a sketch drawn of her shortly after that time by one
who loved her well, which is still hanging in the gallery at
Lilliesford, lighted up by the afternoon sun when it streams
in through the western windows.

Cecil Castlemaine stood on the terrace looking over the
lawns and gardens through the opening vistas of meeting
boughs and interlaced leaves to the woods and hills beyond,
fused in a soft mist of green and purple, with her hand
lying carelessly on her hound's broad head. She was a
zealous Tory, a skilled politician, and her thoughts were busy
with the hopes and fears, the chances for and against, of a
cause that lay near her heart, but whose plans were yet



CECIL CASTLEMAINE S GAGE. 7

immature, whose first blow was yet unstruck, and whose well-
wishers were sanguine of a success they had not yet hazarded,
though they hardly ventured to whisper to each other their
previous designs and desires. Her thoughts were far away,
and she hardly heeded the beauty round her, musing on
schemes and projects dear to her party, that would imperil
the Castlemaine coronet, but would serve the only royal house
the Castlemaine line had ever in their hearts acknowledged.

She had regretted leaving the Town, moreover ; a leader of
the mode, a wit, a woman of the world, she missed her
accustomed sphere ; she was no pastoral Phyllis, no country-
born Mistress Fiddy, to pass her time in provincial pleasures,
in making cordial waters, in tending her beau-pots, in preserv-
ing her fallen rose-leaves, and inspecting the confections in
the still-room ; as little was she able, like many fine ladies
when in similar exile, to while it away by scolding her
tirewoman, and sorting a suit of ribbons, in ordering a set of
gilded leather hangings from Chelsea for the state chambers,
and yawning over chocolate in her bed till mid-day. She re-
gretted leaving the Town, not for Belamour, nor Argent, nor
any of those who vainly hoped, as they glanced at the little
mirror in the lids of their snuff-boxes that they might have
graven themselves, were it ever so faintly, in her thoughts ;
but for the wits, the pleasures, the choice clique, the
accustomed circle to which she was so used, the courtly,
brilliant town-life where she was wont to reign.

So she stood on the terrace the first morning of her exile,
her thoughts far away, with the loyal gentlemen of the North,
and the banished court of St. Germain, the lids drooping
proudly over her haughty eyes, and her lips half parted with
a faint smile of triumph in the visions limned by ambition
and imagination, while the wind softly stirred the rich lace of
her bodice, and her fingers lay, lightly yet firmly, on the
head of her staghound. She looked up at last as she heard
the ring of a horse's hoofs, and saw a sorrel, covered with
dust and foam, spurred up the avenue, which, rounding past
the terrace, swept on to the front entrance ; the sorrel looked
well-nigh spent, and his rider somewhat worn and languid, as
a man might do with justice who had been in boot and
saddle twenty-four hours at the stretch, scarce stopping for a
stoup of wine ; but he lifted his hat, and bowed down to his
saddle bow as he passed her.



8 CECIL CASTLEMAINE^ S GAGE.

" Was it the long-looked-for messenger with, definite news
from St. Germain?" wondered Lady Cecil, as her hound gave
out a deep-tongued bay of anger at the stranger. She went
hack into her bower-room, and toyed absently with her
flowered handkerchief, broidering a stalk to a violet-leaf, and
wondering what additional hope the horseman might have
brought to strengthen the good Cause, till her servants
brought word that his Lordship prayed the pleasure of her
presence in the octagon-room. "Whereat she rose, and swept
through the long corridors, entered the octagon-room, the
sunbeams gathering about her rich dress as they passed
through the stained glass oriels, and saluted the new-comer,
when her father presented him to her as their trusty and
welcome friend and envoy, Sir Fulke Ravensworth, with her
careless dignity, and queenly grace, that nameless air which
was too highly bred to be condescension, but markedly and
proudly repelled familiarity, and signed a pale of distance be-
yond which none must intrude.

The new-comer was a tall and handsome man, of noble
presence, bronzed by foreign suns, pale and jaded just now
with hard riding, while his dark silver-laced suit was splashed
and covered with dust ; but as he bowed low to her, critical
Cecil Castlemaine saw that not Belamour himself could have
better grace, not my Lord Millamont courtlier mien nor
whiter hands, and listened with gracious air to what her
father unfolded to her of his mission from St. Germain,
whither he had come, at great personal risk, in many disguises,
and at breathless speed, to place in their hands a precious
letter in cypher from James Stuart to his well-beloved and
loyal subject Herbert George, Earl of Castlemaine. A letter
spoken of with closed doors and in low whispers, loyal as was
the household, supreme as the Earl reigned over his domains
of Lilliesford, for these were times when men mistrusted
those of their own blood, and when the very figures on the
tapestry seemed instinct with life to spy and to betray when
they almost feared the silk that tied a missive should babble
of its contents, and the hound that slept beside them should
read and tell their thoughts.

To leave Lilliesford would be danger to the Envoy and
danger to the Cause; to stay as guest was to disarm suspicion.
The messenger who had brought such priceless news must



CECIL CASTLEMAIN&S GAGE. 9

rest within the shelter of his roof; too much were risked by
returning to the French coast yet awhile, or even by joining
Mar or Derwentwater, so the Earl enforced his will upon the
Envoy, and the Envoy thanked him, and accepted.

Perchance the beauty, whose eyes he had seen lighten and
proud brow flush as she read the royal greeting and injunction,
made a sojourn near her presence not distasteful ; perchance
he cared little where he* stayed till the dawning time of action
and of rising should arrive, when he should take the field and
fight till life or death for the " White Eose and the long heads
of hair." He was a soldier of fortune, a poor gentleman with
no patrimony but his name, no chance of distinction save by
his sword ; sworn to a cause whose star was set for ever ; for
many years his life had been of changing adventure and shift-
ing chances, now fighting with Berwick at Almanza, now
risking his life in some delicate and dangerous errand for James
Stuart that could not have been trusted so well to any other
officer about St. Germain; gallant to rashness, yet with much
of the acumen of the diplomatist, he was invaluable to his
Court and Cause, but, Stuart-like, men-like, they hastened to
employ, but ever forgot to reward !

Lady Cecil missed her town-life, and did not over-favour
her exile in the western counties. To note down on her
Mather's tablets the drowsy homilies droned out by the chap-
lain on a Sabbath noon, to play at crambo, to talk with her
tirewoman of new washes for the skin, to pass her hours
away in knotting? she, whom Steele might have writ of
when he drew his character of Eiidoxia, could while her
exile with none of these inanities ; neither could she consort
with gentry who seemed to her little better than the boors
of a country wake, who. had never heard of Mr. Spectator
and knew nothing of Mr. Cowley, countrywomen whose
ambition was in their cowslip wines, fox-hunters more igno-
rant and uncouth than the dumb brutes they followed.

Who was there for miles around with whom she could
stoop to associate, with whom she cared to exchange a word ?
Madam from the vicarage, in her grogram, learned in syrups,
salves, and possets 1 Country Lady Bountifuls, with gossip
of the village and the poultry-yard 1 Provincial Peeresses,
who had never been to London since Queen Anne's corona-
tion 1 A squirearchy, who knew of no music save the concert



io CECIL CASTLEMAIN&S GAGE.

of their stop-hounds, no court save the court of the county
assize, no literature unless by miracle 'twere Tarleton's Jests 1
None such as these could cross the inlaid oak parquet of Lillies-
ford, and be ushered into the presence of Cecil Castle-
maine.

So the presence of the Chevalier's messenger was not
altogether unwelcome and distasteful to her. She saw him
but little, merely conversing at table with him with that dis-
tant and dignified courtesy which marked her out from the
light, free, inconsequent manners in vogue with other women
of quality of her time ; the air which had chilled half the
softest things even on Belamour's lips, and kept the vainest
coxcomb hesitating and abashed.

But by degrees she observed that the Envoy was a man
who had lived in many countries and in many courts, was
well versed in the tongues of France and Italy and Spain
in their belles lettres too, moreover and had served his ap-
prenticeship to good company in the salons of Versailles, in
the audience-room of the Vatican, at the receptions of the
Duchess du Maine, and with the banished family at St. Ger-
main. He spoke with a high and sanguine spirit of the
troublous times approaching and the beloved Cause whose
crisis was at hand, which chimed in with her humour better
than the flippancies of Belamour, the airy nothings of Milla-
mont. He was but a soldier of fortune, a poor gentleman
who, named to her in the town, would have had never a word,
and would have been unnoted amidst the crowding beaux who
clustered round to hold her fan and hear how she had been
pleasured with the drolleries of Chief a la Mode. But down
in the western counties she deigned to listen to the Prince's
officer, to smile a smile beautiful when it came on her proud
lips, as the play of light on the opals of her jewelled stomacher
nay, even to be amused when he spoke of the women of
foreign courts, to be interested when he told, which was but
reluctantly, of his own perils, escapes, and adventures, to dis-
course with him, riding home under the beech avenues from
hawking, or standing on the western terrace at curfew to watch
the sunset, of many things on which the nobles of the Mall
and the gentlemen about St. James's had never been allowed



Online Library1839-1908 OuidaCecil Castlemaine's gage, and other novelettes → online text (page 1 of 44)