Charlotte Mary Yonge.

A Reputed Changeling Or Three Seventh Years Two Centuries Ago online

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than was wholesome, and insisted on every opportunity of change or
amusement being taken.

One day as Anne was in the garden she was surprised by Peregrine
dashing up on horseback.

"You would not take the Queen's rosary before," he said. "You must
now, to save it. My father has smelt it out. He says it is
teraphim! Micah - Rachel, what not, are quoted against it. He would
have smashed it into fragments, but that Martha Browning said it
would be a pretty bracelet. I'd sooner see it smashed than on her
red fist. To think of her giving in to such vanities! But he said
she might have it, only to be new strung. When he was gone she
said, 'I don't really want the thing, but it was hard you should
lose the Queen's keepsake. Can you bestow it safely?' I said I
could, and brought it hither. Keep it, Anne, I pray."

Anne hesitated, and referred it to her mother upstairs.

"Tell him," she said, "that we will keep it in trust for him as a
royal gift."

Peregrine was disappointed, but had to be content.

A Dutch vessel from the East Indies had brought home sundry strange
animals, which were exhibited at the Jolly Mariner at Portsmouth,
and thus announced on a bill printed on execrable paper, brought out
to Portchester by some of the market people: -

"An Ellefante twice the Bignesse of an Ocks, the Trunke or Probosces
whereof can pick up a Needle or roote up an Ellum Tree. Also the
Royale Tyger, the same as has slaine and devoured seven yonge Gentoo
babes, three men, and two women at the township at Chuttergong, nie
to Bombay, in the Eastern Indies. Also the sacred Ape, worshipped
by the heathen of the Indies, the Dancing Serpent which weareth
Spectacles, and whose Bite is instantly mortal, with other rare
Fish, Fowle, Idols and the like. All to be seene at the Charge of
one Groat per head."

Mrs. Woodford declared herself to be extremely desirous that her
daughter should see and bring home an account of all these marvels,
and though Anne had no great inclination to face the tiger with the
formidable appetite, she could not refuse to accompany her uncle.

The Jolly Mariner stood in one of the foulest and narrowest of the
streets of the unsavoury seaport, and Dr. Woodford sighed, and
fumed, and wished for a good pipe of tobacco more than once as he
hesitated to try to force a way for his niece through the throng
round the entrance to the stable-yard of the Jolly Mariner,
apparently too rough to pay respect to gown and cassock. Anne clung
to his arm, ready to give up the struggle, but a voice said, "Allow
me, sir. Mistress Anne, deign to take my arm."

It was Peregrine Oakshott with his brother Robert, and she could
hardly tell how in a few seconds she had been squeezed through the
crowd, and stood in the inn-yard, in a comparatively free space, for
a groat was a prohibitory charge to the vulgar.

"Peregrine! Master Oakshott!" They heard an exclamation of
pleasure, at which Peregrine shrugged his shoulders and looked
expressively at Anne, before turning to receive the salutations of
an elderly gentleman and a tall young woman, very plainly but
handsomely clad in mourning deeper than his own. She was of a tall,
gaunt, angular figure, and a face that never could have been
handsome, and now bore evident traces of smallpox in redness and
pits.

Dr. Woodford knew the guardian Mr. Browning, and his ward Mistress
Martha and Mistress Anne Jacobina were presented to one another.
The former gave a good-humoured smile, as if perfectly unconscious
of her own want of beauty, and declared she had hoped to meet all
the rest here, especially Mistress Anne Woodford, of whom she had
heard so much. There was just a little patronage about the tone
which repelled the proud spirit that was in Anne, and in spite of
the ordinary dread and repulsion she felt for Peregrine, she was
naughty enough to have the feeling of a successful beauty when
Peregrine most manifestly turned away from the heiress in her silk
and velvet to do the honours of the exhibition to the parson's
niece.

The elephant was fastened by the leg to a post, which perhaps he
could have pulled up, had he thought it worth his while, but he was
well contented to wave his trunk about and extend its clever finger
to receive contributions of cakes and apples, and he was too well
amused to resort to any strong measures. The tiger, to Anne's
relief, proved to be only a stuffed specimen. Peregrine, who had
seen a good many foreign animals in Holland, where the Dutch
captains were in the habit of bringing curiosities home for the
delectation of their families in their Lusthausen, was a very
amusing companion, having much to tell about bird and beast, while
Robert stood staring with open mouth. The long-legged secretary and
the beautiful doves were, however, only stuffed, but Anne was much
entertained at second hand with the relation of the numerous
objects, which on the word of a Leyden merchant had been known to
disappear in the former bird's capacious crop, and with stories of
the graceful dancing of the cobra, though she was not sorry that the
present specimen was only visible in a bottle of arrack, where his
spectacled hood was scarcely apparent. Presently a well known
shrill young voice was heard. "Yes, yes, I know I shall swoon at
that terrible tiger! Oh, don't! I can't come any farther."

"Why, you would come, madam," said Charles.

"Yes, yes! but - oh, there's a two-tailed monster! I know it is the
tiger! It is moving! I shall die if you take me any farther."

"Plague upon your folly, madam! It is only the elephant," said a
gruffer, rude voice.

"Oh, it is dreadful! 'Tis like a mountain! I can't! Oh no, I
can't!"

"Come, madam, you have brought us thus far, you must come on, and
not make fools of us all," said Charles's voice. "There's nothing
to hurt you."

Anne, understanding the distress and perplexity, here turned back to
the passage into the court, and began persuasively to explain to
little Mrs. Archfield that the tiger was dead, and only a skin, and
that the elephant was the mildest of beasts, till she coaxed forward
that small personage, who had of course never really intended to
turn back, supported and guarded as she was by her husband, and
likewise by a tall, glittering figure in big boots and a handsome
scarlet uniform and white feather who claimed her attention as he
strode into the court. "Ha! Mistress Anne and the Doctor on my
life. What, don't you know me?"

"Master Sedley Archfield!" said the Doctor; "welcome home, sir!
'Tis a meeting of old acquaintance. You and this gentleman are both
so much altered that it is no wonder if you do not recognise one
another at once."

"No fear of Mr. Perry Oakshott not being recognised," said Sedley
Archfield, holding out his hand, but with a certain sneer in his
rough voice that brought Peregrine's eyebrows together. "Kenspeckle
enough, as the fools of Whigs say in Scotland."

"Are you long from Scotland, sir?" asked Dr. Woodford, by way of
preventing personalities.

"Oh ay, sir; these six months and more. There's not much more sport
to be had since the fools of Cameronians have been pretty well got
under, and 'tis no loss to be at Hounslow."

"And oh, what a fright!" exclaimed Mrs. Archfield, catching sight of
the heiress. "Keep her away! She makes me ill."

They were glad to divert her attention to feeding the elephant, and
she was coquetting a little about making up her mind to approach
even the defunct tiger, while she insisted on having the number of
his victims counted over to her. Anne asked for Lucy, to whom she
wanted to show the pigeons, but was answered that, "my lady wanted
Lucy at home over some matter of jellies and blancmanges."

Charles shrugged his shoulders a little and Sedley grumbled to Anne.
"The little vixen sets her heart on cates that she won't lay a
finger to make, and poor Lucy is like to be no better than a cook-
maid, while they won't cross her, for fear of her tantrums."

At that instant piercing screams, shriek upon shriek, rang through
the court, and turning hastily round, Anne beheld a little monkey
perched on Mrs. Archfield's head, having apparently leapt thither
from the pole to which it was chained.

The keeper was not in sight, being in fact employed over a sale of
some commodities within. There was a general springing to the
rescue. Charles tried to take the creature off, Sedley tugged at
the chain fastened to a belt round its body, but the monkey held
tight by the curls on the lady's forehead with its hands, and
crossed its legs round her neck, clasping the hands so that the
effect of the attempts of her husband and his cousin was only to
throttle her, so that she could no longer scream and was almost in a
fit, when on Peregrine holding out a nut and speaking coaxingly in
Dutch, the monkey unloosed its hold, and with another bound was on
his arm. He stood caressing and feeding it, talking to it in the
same tongue, while it made little squeaks and chatterings, evidently
delighted, though its mournful old man's visage still had the same
piteous expression. There was something most grotesque and almost
weird in the sight of Peregrine's queer figure toying with its odd
hands which seemed to be in black gloves, and the strange language
he talked to it added to the uncanny effect. Even the Doctor felt
it as he stood watching, and would have muttered 'Birds of a
feather,' but that the words were spoken more gruffly and plainly by
Sedley Archfield, who said something about the Devil and his dam,
which the good Doctor did not choose to hear, and only said to
Peregrine, "You know how to deal with the jackanapes."

"I have seen some at Leyden, sir. This is a pretty little beast."

Pretty! There was a recoil in horror, for the creature looked to
the crowd demoniacal. Something the same was the sensation of
Charles, who, assisted by Anne and Martha, had been rather carrying
than leading his wife into the inn parlour, where she immediately
had a fit of hysterics - vapours, as they called it - bringing all the
women of the inn about her, while Martha and Anne soothed her as
best they could, and he was reduced to helplessly leaning out at the
bay window.

When the sobs and cries subsided, under cold water and essences
without and strong waters within, and the little lady in Martha's
strong arms, between the matronly coaxing of the fat hostess and the
kind soothings of the two young ladies, had been restored to
something of equanimity, Mistress Martha laid her down and said with
the utmost good humour and placidity to the young husband, "Now I'll
go, sir. She is better now, but the sight of my face might set her
off again."

"Oh, do not say so, madam. We are infinitely obliged. Let her
thank you."

But Martha shook her hand and laughed, turning to leave the room, so
that he was fain to give her his arm and escort her back to her
guardian.

Then ensued a scream. "Where's he going? Mr. Archfield, don't
leave me."

"He is only taking Mistress Browning back to her guardian," said
Anne.

"Eh? oh, how can he? A hideous fright!" she cried.

To say the truth, she was rather pleased to have had such a dreadful
adventure, and to have made such a commotion, though she protested
that she must go home directly, and could never bear the sight of
those dreadful monsters again, or she should die on the spot.

"But," said she, when the coach was at the door, and Anne had
restored her dress to its dainty gaiety, "I must thank Master
Peregrine for taking off that horrible jackanapes."

"Small thanks to him," said Charles crossly. "I wager it was all
his doing out of mere spite."

"He is too good a beau ever to spite _me_," said Mrs. Alice, her
head a little on one side.

"Then to show off what he could do with the beast - Satan's imp, like
himself."

"No, no, Mr. Archfield," pleaded Anne, "that was impossible; I saw
him myself. He was with that sailor-looking man measuring the
height of the secretary bird."

"I believe you are always looking after him," grumbled Charles. "I
can't guess what all the women see in him to be always gazing after
him."

"Because he is so charmingly ugly," laughed the young wife, tripping
out in utter forgetfulness that she was to die if she went near the
beasts again. She met Peregrine half way across the yard with
outstretched hands, exclaiming -

"O Mr. Oakshott! it was so good in you to take away that nasty
beast."

"I am glad, madam, to have been of use," said Peregrine, bowing and
smiling, a smile that might explain something of his fascination.
"The poor brute was only drawn, as all of our kind are. He wanted
to see so sweet a lady nearer. He is quite harmless. Will you
stroke him? See, there he sits, gazing after you. Will you give
him a cake and make friends?"

"No, no, madam, it cannot be; it is too much," grumbled Charles; and
though Alice had backed at first, perhaps for the pleasure of
teasing him, or for that of being the centre of observation,
actually, with all manner of pretty airs and graces, she let herself
be led forward, lay a timid hand on the monkey's head, and put a
cake in its black fingers, while all the time Peregrine held it fast
and talked Dutch to it; and Charles Archfield hardly contained his
rage, though Anne endeavoured to argue the impossibility of
Peregrine's having incited the attack; and Sedley blustered that
they ought to interfere and make the fellow know the reason why.
However, Charles had sense enough to know that though he might
exhale his vexation in grumbling, he had no valid cause for
quarrelling with young Oakshott, so he contented himself with black
looks and grudging thanks, as he was obliged to let Peregrine hand
his wife into her carriage amid her nods and becks and wreathed
smiles.

They would have taken Dr. Woodford and his niece home in the coach,
but Anne had an errand in the town, and preferred to return by boat.
She wanted some oranges and Turkey figs to allay her mother's
constant thirst, and Peregrine begged permission to accompany them,
saying that he knew where to find the best and cheapest.
Accordingly he took them to a tiny cellar, in an alley by the boat
camber, where the Portugal oranges certainly looked riper and were
cheaper than any that Anne had found before; but there seemed to be
an odd sort of understanding between Peregrine and the withered old
weather-beaten sailor who sold them, such as rather puzzled the
Doctor.

"I hope these are not contraband," he said to Peregrine, when the
oranges had been packed in the basket of the servant who followed
them.

Peregrine shrugged his shoulders.

"Living is hard, sir. Ask no questions."

The Doctor looked tempted to turn back with the fruit, but such
doubts were viewed as ultra scruples, and would hardly have been
entertained even by a magistrate such as Sir Philip Archfield.

It was not a time for questions, and Peregrine remained with them
till they embarked at the point, asking to be commended to Mrs.
Woodford, and hoping soon to come and see both her and poor Hans, he
left them.



CHAPTER XI: PROPOSALS


"Hear me, ye venerable core,
As counsel for poor mortals,
That frequent pass douce Wisdom's door
For glaikit Folly's portals;
I for their thoughtless, careless sakes
Would here propose defences,
Their doucie tricks, their black mistakes,
Their failings and mischances."

BURNS.

For seven years Anne Woodford had kept Lucy Archfield's birthday
with her, and there was no refusing now, though there was more and
more unwillingness to leave Mrs. Woodford, whose declining state
became so increasingly apparent that even the loving daughter could
no longer be blind to it.

The coach was sent over to fetch Mistress Anne to Fareham, and the
invalid was left, comfortably installed in her easy-chair by the
parlour fire, with a little table by her side, holding a hand-bell,
a divided orange, a glass of toast and water, and the Bible and
Prayer-book, wherein lay her chief studies, together with a little
needlework, which still amused her feeble hands. The Doctor,
divided between his parish, his study, and his garden, had promised
to look in from time to time.

Presently, however, the door was gently tapped, and on her call
"Come in," Hans, all one grin, admitted Peregrine Oakshott, bowing
low in his foreign, courteous manner, and entreating her to excuse
his intrusion, "For truly, madam, in your goodness is my only hope."

Then he knelt on one knee and kissed the hand she held out to him,
while desiring him to speak freely to her.

"Nay, madam, I fear I shall startle you, when I lay before you the
only chance that can aid me to overcome the demon that is in me."

"My poor - "

"Call me your boy, as when I was here seven years ago. Let me sit
at your feet as then and listen to me."

"Indeed I will, my dear boy," and she laid her hand on his dark
head. "Tell me all that is in your heart."

"Ah, dear lady, that is not soon done! You and Mistress Anne, as
you well know, first awoke me from my firm belief that I was none
other than an elf, and yet there have since been times when I have
doubted whether it were not indeed the truth."

"Nay, Peregrine, at years of discretion you should have outgrown old
wives' tales."

"Better be an elf at once - a soulless creature of the elements - than
the sport of an evil spirit doomed to perdition," he bitterly
exclaimed.

"Hush, hush! You know not what you are saying!"

"I know it too well, madam! There are times when I long and wish
after goodness - nay, when Heaven seems open to me - and I resolve and
strive after a perfect life; but again comes the wild, passionate
dragging, as it were, into all that at other moments I most loathe
and abhor, and I become no more my own master. Ah!"

There was misery in his voice, and he clutched the long hair on each
side of his face with his hands.

"St. Paul felt the same," said Mrs. Woodford gently.

"'Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?' Ay, ay! how
many times have I not groaned that forth! And so, if that Father at
Turin were right, I am but as Paul was when he was Saul. Madam, is
it not possible that I was never truly baptized?" he cried eagerly.

"Impossible, Peregrine. Was not Mr. Horncastle chaplain when you
were born? Yes; and I have heard my brother say that both he and
your father held the same views as the Church upon baptism."

"So I thought; but Father Geronimo says that at the best it was but
heretical baptism, and belike hastily and ineffectually performed."

"Put that aside, Peregrine. It is only a temptation and
allurement."

"It is an allurement you know not how strong," said the poor youth.
"Could I only bring myself to believe all that Father Geronimo does,
and fall down before his Madonnas and saints, then could I hope for
a new nature, and scourge away the old" - he set his teeth as he
spoke - "till naught remains of the elf or demon, be it what it
will."

"Ah, Peregrine, scourging will not do it, but grace will, and that
grace is indeed yours, as is proved by these higher aspirations."

"I tell you, madam, that if I live on as I am doing now, grace will
be utterly stifled, if it ever abode in me at all. Every hour that
I live, pent in by intolerable forms and immeasurable dulness, the
maddening temper gains on me! Nay, I have had to rush out at night
and swear a dozen round oaths before I could compose myself to sit
down to the endless supper. Ah, I shock you, madam! but that's not
the worst I am driven to do."

"Nor the way to bring the better spirit, my poor youth. Oh, that
you would pray instead of swearing!"

"I cannot pray at Oakwood. My father and Mr. Horncastle drive away
all the prayers that ever were in me, and I mean nothing, even
though I keep my word to you."

"I am glad you do that. While I know you are doing so, I shall
still believe the better angel will triumph."

"How can aught triumph but hatred and disgust where I am pinned
down? Listen, madam, and hear if good spirits have any chance. We
break our fast, ere the sun is up, on chunks of yesterday's half-
dressed beef and mutton. If I am seen seeking for a morsel not half
raw, I am rated for dainty French tastes; and the same with the sour
smallest of beer. I know now what always made me ill-tempered as a
child, and I avoid it, but at the expense of sneers on my French
breeding, even though my drink be fair water; for wine, look you, is
a sinful expense, save for after dinner, and frothed chocolate for a
man is an invention of Satan. The meal is sauced either with blame
of me, messages from the farm-folk, or Bob's exploits in the chase.
Then my father goes his rounds on the farm, and would fain have me
with him to stand knee-deep in mire watching the plough, or feeling
each greasy and odorous old sheep in turn to see if it be ready for
the knife, or gloating over the bullocks or swine, or exchanging
auguries with Thomas Vokes on this or that crop. Faugh! And I am
told I shall never be good for a country gentleman if I contemn such
matters! I say I have no mind to be a country gentleman, whereby I
am told of Esau till I am sick of his very name."

"But surely you have not always to follow on this round?"

"Oh no! I may go out birding with Bob, who is about as lively as an
old jackass, or meet the country boobies for a hunt, and be pointed
at as the Frenchman, and left to ride alone; or there's mine own
chamber, when the maids do not see fit to turn me out with their
pails and besoms, as they do at least twice a week - I sit there in
my cloak and furs (by the way, I am chidden for an effeminate fop if
ever I am seen in them). I would give myself to books, as my uncle
counselled, but what think you? By ill hap Bob, coming in to ask
some question, found me studying the Divina Commedia of Dante
Alighieri, and hit upon one of the engravings representing the
torments of purgatory. What must he do but report it, and
immediately a hue and cry arises that I am being corrupted with
Popish books. In vain do I tell them that their admirable John
Milton, the only poet save Sternhold and Hopkins that my father
deems not absolute pagan, knew, loved, and borrowed from Dante. All
my books are turned over as ruthlessly as ever Don Quixote's by the
curate and the barber, and whatever Mr. Horncastle's erudition
cannot vouch for is summarily handed over to the kitchen wench to
light the fires. The best of it is that they have left me my
classics, as though old Terence and Lucan were lesser heathens than
the great Florentine. However, I have bribed the young maid, and
rescued my Dante and Boiardo with small damage, but I dare not read
them save with door locked."

Mrs. Woodford could scarcely shake her head at the disobedience, and
she asked if there were really no other varieties.

"Such as fencing with that lubber Robert, and trying to bend his
stiff limbs to the noble art of l'escrime. But that is after dinner
work. There is the mountain of half-raw flesh to be consumed first,
and then my father, with Mr. Horncastle and Bob discuss on what they
call the news - happy if a poor rogue has been caught by Tom
Constable stealing faggots. 'Tis argument for a week - almost equal
to the price of a fat mutton at Portsmouth. My father and the
minister nod in due time over their ale-cup, and Bob and I go our
ways till dark, or till the house bell rings for prayers and
exposition. Well, dear good lady, I will not grieve you by telling
you how often they make me wish to be again the imp devoid of every
shred of self-respect, and too much inured to flogging to heed what
my antics might bring on me."

"I am glad you have that shred of self respect; I hope indeed it is
some higher respect."

"Well, I can never believe that Heaven meant to be served by mortal
dullness. Seven years have only made old Horncastle blow his horn
to the same note, only more drearily."

"I can see indeed that it is a great trial to one used to the life
of foreign Courts and to interest in great affairs like you, my poor
Peregrine; but what can I say but to entreat you to be patient, try
to find interest, and endeavour to win your father's confidence so
that he may accord you more liberty? Did I not hear that your
attention made your mother's life happier?"

Peregrine laughed. "My mother! She has never seen aught but
boorishness all her life, and any departure therefrom seems to her
unnatural. I believe she is as much afraid of my courtesy as ever
she was of my mischief, and that in her secret heart she still



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