Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

The Squire of Sandal-Side A Pastoral Romance online

. (page 1 of 15)
Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrThe Squire of Sandal-Side A Pastoral Romance → online text (page 1 of 15)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

E-text prepared by Bethanne M. Simms, Sigal Alon, Mary Meehan, and the
Project Gutenberg Online Distributed Proofreading Team


A Pastoral Romance



Author of "Jan Vedder's Wife," "A Daughter of Fife,"
"The Bow of Orange Ribbon," etc.

New York
The A.D. Porter Co.
















"This happy breed of men, this little world."

"To know
That which before us lies in daily life
Is the prime wisdom."

"All that are lovers of virtue ... be quiet, and go a-angling."

There is a mountain called Seat-Sandal, between the Dunmail Raise and
Grisedale Pass; and those who have stood upon its summit know that
Grasmere vale and lake lie at their feet, and that Windermere,
Esthwaite, and Coniston, with many arms of the sea, and a grand
brotherhood of mountains, are all around them. There is also an old gray
manor-house of the same name. It is some miles distant from the foot of
the mountain, snugly sheltered in one of the loveliest valleys between
Coniston and Torver. No one knows when the first stones of this house
were laid. The Sandals were in Sandal-Side when the white-handed,
waxen-faced Edward was building Westminster Abbey, and William the
Norman was laying plans for the crown of England. Probably they came
with those Norsemen who a century earlier made the Isle of Man their
headquarters, and from it, landing on the opposite coast of Cumberland,
settled themselves among valleys and lakes and mountains of primeval
beauty, which must have strongly reminded them of their native land.

For the prevailing names of this district are all of the Norwegian type,
especially such abounding suffixes and prefixes as _seat_ from "set," a
dwelling; _dale_ from "dal," a valley; _fell_ from "fjeld," a mountain;
_garth_ from "gard," an enclosure; and _thwaite_, from "thveit," a
clearing. It is certain, also, that, in spite of much Anglo-Saxon
admixture, the salt blood of the roving Viking is still in the
Cumberland dalesman. Centuries of bucolic isolation have not obliterated
it. Every now and then the sea calls some farmer or shepherd, and the
restless drop in his veins gives him no peace till he has found his way
over the hills and fells to the port of Whitehaven, and gone back to the
cradling bosom that rocked his ancestors.

But in the main, this lovely spot was a northern Lotus-land to the
Viking. The great hills shut him in from the sight of the sea. He built
himself a "seat," and enclosed "thwaites" of greater or less extent;
and, forgetting the world in his green paradise, was for centuries
almost forgotten by the world. And if long descent and an ancient family
have any special claim to be held honorable, it is among the Cumberland
"statesmen," or freeholders, it must be looked for in England.

The Sandals have been wise and fortunate owners of the acres which
Lögberg Sandal cleared for his descendants. They have a family tradition
that he came from Iceland in his own galley; and a late generation has
written out portions of a saga, - long orally transmitted, - which relates
the incidents of his voyage. All the Sandals believe implicitly in its
authenticity; and, indeed, though it is full of fighting, of the plunder
of gold and rich raiment, and the carrying off of fair women, there is
nothing improbable in its relations, considering the people and the
time whose story it professes to tell.

Doubtless this very Lögberg Sandal built the central hall of
Seat-Sandal. There were giants in those days; and it must have been the
hands of giants that piled the massive blocks, and eyes accustomed to
great expanses that measured off the large and lofty space. Smaller
rooms have been built above it and around it, and every generation has
added something to its beauty and comfort; but Lögberg's great hall,
with its enormous fireplace, is still the heart of the home.

For nowhere better than among these "dalesmen" can the English elemental
resistance to fusion be seen. Only at the extreme point of necessity
have they exchanged ideas with any other section, yet they have left
their mark all over English history. In Cumberland and Westmoreland, the
most pathetic romances of the Red Rose were enacted. In the strength of
these hills, the very spirit of the Reformation was cradled. From among
them came the Wyckliffite queen of Henry the Eighth, and the noble
confessor and apostle Bernard Gilpin. No lover of Protestantism can
afford to forget the man who refused the bishopric of Carlisle, and a
provostship at Oxford, that he might traverse the hills and dales, and
read to the simple "statesmen" and shepherds the unknown Gospels in the
vernacular. They gathered round him in joyful wonder, and listened
kneeling to the Scriptures. Only the death of Mary prevented his
martyrdom; and to-day his memory is as green as are the ivies and
sycamores around his old home.

The Protestant spirit which Gilpin raised among these English Northmen
was exceptionally intense; and here George Fox found ready the strong
mystical element necessary for his doctrines. For these men had long
worshipped "in temples not made with hands." In the solemn "high places"
they had learned to interpret the voices of winds and waters; and among
the stupendous crags, more like clouds at sunset than fragments of solid
land, they had seen and heard wonderful things. All over this country,
from Kendal to old Ulverston, Fox was known and loved; and from
Swarthmoor Hall, a manor-house not very far from Seat-Sandal, he took
his wife.

After this the Stuarts came marching through the dales, but the
followers of Wyckliffe and Fox had little sympathy with the Stuarts. In
the rebellion of 1715, their own lord, the Earl of Derwentwater, was
beheaded for aiding the unfortunate family; and the hills and waters
around are sad with the memories of his lady's heroic efforts and
sufferings. So, when Prince Charles came again, in 1745, they were moved
neither by his beauty nor his romantic daring: they would take no part
at all in his brilliant blunder.

It was for his stanch loyalty on this occasion, that the Christopher
Sandal of that day was put among the men whom King George determined to
honor. A baronetcy was offered him, which he declined; for he had a
feeling that he would deeply offend old Lögberg Sandal, and perhaps all
the rest of his ancestral wraiths, if he merged their ancient name in
that of Baron of Torver. The sentiment was one the German King of
England could understand and respect; and Sandal received, in place of a
costly title, the lucrative office of High Sheriff of Cumberland, and a
good share besides of the forfeited lands of the rebel houses of
Huddleston and Millom.

Then he took his place among the great county families of England. He
passed over his own hills, and went up to London, and did homage for the
king's grace to him. And that strange journey awakened in the mountain
lord some old spirit of adventure and curiosity. He came home by the
ocean, and perceived that he had only half lived before. He sent his
sons to Oxford; he made them travel; he was delighted when the youngest
two took to the sea as naturally as the eider-ducks fledged in a
sea-sand nest.

Good fortune did not spoil the old, cautious family. It went "cannily"
forward, and knew how "to take occasion by the hand," and how to choose
its friends. Towards the close of the eighteenth century, an opportune
loan again set the doors of the House of Lords open to the Sandals; but
the head of the family was even less inclined to enter it than his
grandfather had been.

"Nay, then," was his answer, "t' Sandals are too old a family to hide
their heads in a coronet. Happen, I am a bit opinion-tied, but it's over
late to loosen knots made centuries ago; and I don't want to loosen
them, neither."

So it will be perceived, that, though the Sandals moved, they moved
slowly. A little change went a great way with them. The men were all
conservative in politics, the women intensely so in all domestic
traditions. They made their own sweet waters and unguents and pomades,
long after the nearest chemist supplied a far better and cheaper
article. Their spinning-wheels hummed by the kitchen-fire, and their
shuttles glided deftly in the weaving-room, many a year after Manchester
cottons were cheap and plentiful. But they were pleasant, kindly women,
who did wonderful needlework, and made all kinds of dainty dishes and
cordials and sirups. They were famous florists and gardeners, and the
very neatest of housewives. They visited the poor and sick, and never
went empty-handed. They were hearty Churchwomen. They loved God, and
were truly pious, and were hardly aware of it; for those were not days
of much inquiry. People did their duty and were happy, and did not
reason as to "why" they did it, nor try to ascertain if there were a
legitimate cause for the effect.

But about the beginning of this century, a different day began to dawn
over Sandal-Side. The young heir came to his own, and signalized the
event by marrying the rich Miss Lowther of Whitehaven. She had been
finely educated. She had lived in large cities, and been to court. She
dressed elegantly; she had a piano and much grand furniture brought over
the hills to Sandal; and she filled the old house during the summer with
lords and ladies, and poets and artists, who flitted about the idyllic
little village, like gay butterflies in a lovely garden.

The husband and children of such a woman were not likely to stand still.
Sandal, encouraged by her political influence, went into Parliament. Her
children did fairly well; for though one boy was wild, and cost them a
deal of money, and another went away in a passion one morning, and never
came back, the heir was a good son, and the two girls made splendid
marriages. On the whole, she could feel that she had done well to her
generation. Even after she had been long dead, the old women in the
village talked of her beauty and spirit, of the tight hand she kept over
every one and every thing pertaining to Sandal. Of all the mistresses
of the old "seat," this Mistress Charlotte was the most prominent and
the best remembered.

Every one who steps within the wide, cool hall of Seat-Sandal faces
first of all things her picture. It is a life-size painting of a
beautiful woman, in the queer, scant costume of the regency. She wears a
white satin frock and white satin slippers, and carries in her hand a
bunch of white roses. She appears to be coming down a flight of wide
stairs; one foot is lifted for the descent, and the dark background, and
the dim light in which it hangs, give to the illusion an almost
startling reality. It was her fancy to have the painting hung there to
welcome all who entered her doors; and though it is now old-fashioned,
and rather shabby and faded, no one of the present generation cares to
order its removal. All hold quietly to the opinion that "grandmother
would not like it."

In that quiet acre on the hillside, which holds the generations of the
Sandals, she had been at rest for ten years. But her son still bared his
gray head whenever he passed her picture; still, at times, stood a
minute before it, and said with tender respect, "I salute thee,
mother." And in her granddaughter's lives still she interfered; for she
had left in their father's charge a sum of money, which was to be used
solely to give them some pleasure which they could not have without it.
In this way, though dead, she kept herself a part of their young lives;
became a kind of fairy grandmother, who gave them only delightful
things, and her name continued a household word.

Only the mother seemed averse to speak it; and Charlotte, who was most
observant, noticed that she never lifted her eyes to the picture as she
passed it. There were reasons for these things which the children did
not understand. They had been too young at her death to estimate the
bondage in which she had kept her daughter-in-law, who, for her
husband's sake, had been ever patient and reticent. Nothing is, indeed,
more remarkable than the patience of wives under this particular trial.
They may be restive under many far less wrongs, but they bear the
mother-in-law grievance with a dignity which shames the grim joking and
the petulant abuse of men towards the same relationship. And for many
years the young wife had borne nobly a domestic tyranny which pressed
her on every hand. If then, she was glad to be set free from it, the
feeling was too natural to be severely blamed; for she never said
so, - no, not even by a look. Her children had the benefit of their
grandmother's kindness, and she was too honorable to deprive the dead of
their meed of gratitude.

The present holder of Sandal had none of his mother's ambitious will. He
cared for neither political nor fashionable life; and as soon as he came
to his inheritance, married a handsome, sensible daleswoman with whom he
had long been in love. Then he retired from a world which had nothing to
give him comparable, in his eyes, with the simple, dignified pleasures
incident to his position as Squire of Sandal-Side. For dearly he loved
the old hall, with its sheltering sycamores and oaks, - oaks which had
been young trees when the knights lying in Furness Abbey led the
Grasmere bowmen at Crécy and Agincourt. Dearly he loved the large, low
rooms, full of comfortable elegance; and the sweet, old-fashioned, Dutch
garden, so green through all the snows of winter, so cheerfully grave
and fragrant in the summer twilights, so shady and cool even in the
hottest noons.

Thirty years ago he was coming through it one July evening. It had been
a very hot day; and the flowers were drooping, and the birds weary and
silent. But Squire Sandal, though flushed and rumpled looking, had still
the air of drippy mornings and hazy afternoons about him. There was a
creel at his back, and a fishing-rod in his hand, and he had just come
from the high, unplanted places, and the broomy, breezy moorlands; and
his broad, rosy face expressed nothing but happiness.

At his side walked his favorite daughter Charlotte, - his dear companion,
the confidant and sharer of all his sylvan pleasures. She was tired and
dusty; and her short printed gown showed traces of green, spongy grass,
and lichen-covered rocks. But her face was a joy to see: she had such
bright eyes, such a kind, handsome mouth, such a cheerful voice, such a
merry laugh. As they came in sight of the wide-open front-doors, she
looked ruefully down at her feet and her grass-and-water-stained skirt,
and then into her father's face.

"I don't know what Sophia will say if she sees me, father; I don't,

"Never you mind her, dear. Sophia's rather high, you know. And we've
had a rare good time. Eh? What?"

"I should think we have! There are not many pleasures in life better
than persuading a fine trout to go a little way down stream with you.
Are there, father?"

"You are right, Charlotte. Trout are the kind of company you want on an
outing. And then, you know, if you can only persuade one to go down
stream a bit with you, there's not much difficulty in persuading him to
let you have the pleasure of seeing him to dinner. Eh? What?"

"I think I will go round by the side-door, father. I might meet some one
in the hall."

"Nay, don't do that. There isn't any need to shab off. You've done
nothing wrong, and I'm ready to stand by you, my dear; and you know what
a good time we've been having all day. Eh? What?"

"Of course I know, father, -

"Showers and clouds and winds,
All things well and proper;
Trailer, red and white,
Dark and wily dropper.
Midges true to fling
Made of plover hackle,
With a gaudy wing,
And a cobweb tackle."

"Cobweb tackle, eh, Charlotte? Yes, certainly; for a hand that can
manage it. Lancie Crossthwaite will land you a trout, three pounds
weight, with a line that wouldn't lift a dead weight of one pound from
the floor to the table. I'll uphold he will. Eh? What?"

"I'll do it myself, some day; see if I don't, father."

"I've no doubt of it, Charlotte; not a bit." Then being in the
entrance-hall, they parted with a smile of confidence, and Charlotte
hastened up-stairs to prepare herself for the evening meal. She gave one
quick glance at her grandmother's picture as she passed it, a glance of
mingled deprecation and annoyance; for there were times when the
complacent serenity of the perfect face, and the perfect propriety of
the white satin gown, gave her a little spasm of indignation.

She dressed rapidly, with a certain deft grace that was part of her
character. And it was a delightful surprise to watch the metamorphosis;
the more so, as it went on with a perfect unconsciousness of its
wonderful beauty. Here a change, and there a change, until the bright
brown hair was loosened from its net of knotted silk, to fall in wavy,
curly masses; and the printed gown was exchanged for one of the finest
muslin, pink and flowing, and pinned together with bows of pale blue
satin. A daring combination, which precisely suited her blonde,
brilliant beauty. Her eyes were shining; her cheeks touched by the sun
till they had the charming tints of a peach on a southern wall. She
looked at herself with a little nod of satisfaction, and then tapped at
the door of the room adjoining her own. It was Miss Sandal's room; and
Miss Sandal, though only sixteen months older than Charlotte, exacted
all the deference due to her by the right of primogeniture.

"Come in, Charlotte."

"How did you know it was I?"

"I know your knock, however you vary it. Nobody knocks like you. I
suppose no two people would make three taps just the same." She was far
too polite to yawn; but she made as much of the movement as she could
not control, and then put a mark in her book, and laid it down. A very
different girl, indeed, was she from her younger sister; a stranger
would never have suspected her of the same parentage.

She had dark, fine eyes, which, however, did not express what she felt:
they rather gave the idea of storing up impressions to be re-acted upon
by some interior power. She had a delicate complexion, a great deal of
soft, black hair compactly dressed, and a neat figure. Her disposition
was dreamy and self-willed; occult studies fascinated her, and she was
passionately fond of moonlight. She was simply dressed in a white muslin
frock, with a black ribbon around her slim waist; but the ribbon was
clasped by a buckle of heavily chased gold, and her fingers had many
rings on them, and looked - a very rare circumstance - the better for
them. Having put down her book, she rose from her chair; and as she
dipped the tips of her hands in water, and wiped them with elaborate
nicety, she talked to Charlotte in a soft, deliberate way.

"Where have you been, you and father, ever since daybreak?"

"Up to Blaeberry Tarn, and then home by Holler Beck. We caught a creel
full of trout, and had a very happy day."

"Really, you know?"

"Yes, really; why not?"

"I cannot understand it, Charlotte. I suppose we never were sisters
before." She said the words with the air of one who rather states a fact
than asks a question; and Charlotte, not at all comprehending, looked at
her curiously and interrogatively.

"I mean that our relationship in this life does not touch our anterior

"Oh, you know you are talking nonsense, Sophia! It gives me such a feel,
you can't tell, to think of having lived before; and I don't believe it.
There, now! Come, dear, let us go to dinner; I'm that hungry I'm fit to
drop." For Charlotte was watching, with a feeling of injury, Sophia's
leisurely method of putting every book and chair and hairpin in its

The sisters' rooms were precisely alike in their general features, and
yet there was as great a relative difference in their apartments as in
their natures. Both were large, low rooms, facing the sunrise. The walls
of both were of dark oak; the roofs of both were of the same sombre
wood; so also were the floors. They were literally oak chambers. And in
both rooms the draperies of the beds, chairs, and windows were of white
dimity. But in Sophia's, there were many pictures, souvenirs of
girlhood's friendships, needlework, finished and unfinished drawings,
and a great number of books mostly on subjects not usually attractive to
young women. Charlotte's room had no pictures on its walls, and no odds
and ends of memorials; and as sewing was to her a duty and not a
pleasure, there was no crotcheting or Berlin-wool work in hand; and with
the exception of a handsome copy of "Izaak Walton," there were no books
on her table but a Bible, Book of Common Prayer, and a very shabby
Thomas à Kempis.

So dissimilar were the girls in their appearance and their tastes; and
yet they loved each other with that calm, habitual, family affection,
which, undemonstrative as it is, stands the wear and tug of life with a
wonderful tenacity. Down the broad, oak stairway they sauntered
together; Charlotte's tall, erect figure, bright, loose hair, pink
dress, and flowing ribbons, throwing into effective contrast the dark
hair, dark eyes, white drapery, and gleaming ornaments of her elder

In the hall they met the squire. He was very fond and very proud of his
daughters; and he gave his right arm to Sophia, and slipped his left
hand into Charlotte's hand with an affectionate pride and confidence
that was charming.

"Any news, mother?" he asked, as he lifted one of the crisp brown trout
from its bed of white damask and curly green parsley.

"None, squire; only the sheep-shearing at the Up-Hill Farm to-morrow.
John of Middle Barra called with the statesman's respects. Will you go,

"Certainly. My men are all to lend a hand. Barf Latrigg is ageing fast
now; he was my father's crony; if I slighted him, I should feel as if
father knew about it. Which of you will go with me? Thou, mother?"

"That, I cannot, squire. The servant lasses are all promised for the
fleece-folding; and it's a poor house that won't keep one woman busy in

"Sophia and Charlotte will go then?"

"Excuse me, father," answered Sophia languidly. "I shall have a
headache to-morrow, I fear; I have been nervous and poorly all the

"Why, Sophia, I didn't think I had such a foolish lass! Taking fancies
for she doesn't know what. If you plan for to-morrow, plan a bit of
pleasure with it; that's a long way better than expecting a headache.
Charlotte will go then. Eh? What?"

"Yes, father; I will go. Sophia never could bear walking in the
heat. I like it; and I think there are few things merrier than a

"So poetic! So idyllic!" murmured Sophia, with mild sarcasm.

"Many people think so, Sophia. Mr. Wordsworth would remember Pan and
Arcadian shepherds playing on reedy pipes, and Chaldæan shepherds
studying the stars, and those on Judæa's hills who heard the angels
singing. He would think of wild Tartar shepherds, and handsome Spanish
and Italian."

"And still handsomer Cumberland ones." And Sophia, having given this
little sisterly reminder, added calmly, "I met Mr. Wordsworth to-day,
father. He had come over the fells with a party, and he looked very
much bored with his company."

"I shouldn't wonder if he were. He likes his own company best. He is a
great man now, but I remember well when people thought he was just a
little off-at-side. You knew Nancy Butterworth, mother?"

"Certainly I did, squire. She lived near Rydal."

"Yes. Nancy wasn't very bright herself. A stranger once asked her what
Mr. Wordsworth was like; and she said, 'He's canny enough at times.
Mostly he's wandering up and down t' hills, talking his po-et-ry; but
now and then he'll say, "How do ye do, Nancy?" as sensible as you or

"Mr. Wordsworth speaks foolishness to a great many people besides Nancy
Butterworth," said Sophia warmly; "but he is a great poet and a great
seer to those who can understand him."

"Well, well, Mr. Wordsworth is neither here nor there in our affairs.
We'll go up to Latriggs in the afternoon, Charlotte. I'll be ready at
two o'clock."

"And I, also, father." Her face was flushed and thoughtful, and she had

1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15

Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrThe Squire of Sandal-Side A Pastoral Romance → online text (page 1 of 15)