George MacDonald.

St. George and St. Michael (Volume 1) online

. (page 10 of 14)
Online LibraryGeorge MacDonaldSt. George and St. Michael (Volume 1) → online text (page 10 of 14)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

ending in a hook.

' Welcome, indeed, cousin Vaughan ! ' he said
heartily, but without offering his hand, which
in truth, although an honest, skilful, and well-
fashioned hand, was at the present moment far
from fit for a lady's touch.

The Magicians Vault. 199

There was something In his voice not aho-
gether strange to Dorothy, but she could not
tell of whom or what It reminded her.

' Are you come to take another lesson on the
cross-bow ? ' he asked with a smile.

Then she knew he was the same she had
met In the looped chamber beside the arblast.
An occasional slight halt, not Impediment, In
his speech, was what had remained on her
memory. Did he always dwell only in the
dusky borders of the light }

Dorothy uttered a little ' Oh !' of surprise, but
immediately recovering herself, said,

* I am sorry I did not know It was you, my
lord. I might by this time have been capable
of discharging bolt or arrow with good aim in
defence of the castle.'

' It Is not yet too late, I hope,' returned the
workman-lord. ' I confess I was disappointed
to find your curiosity went no further. I hoped
I had at last found a lady capable of some
Interest in pursuits like mine. For my lady
Margaret here, she cares not a straw for any-
thing I do, and would rather have me keep my
hands clean than discover the mechanism of the
primum mobile!

200 SL George and St. Michael,

*Yes, in truth, Ned/ said his wife, *I would
rather have thee with fair hands in my sweet
parlour, than toiling and moiling In this dirty-
dungeon, with no companion but that horrible
fire-engine of thine, grunting and roaring all
night long/

* Why, what do you make of Caspar Kal-
toff, my lady ?'

* I make not much of him.'

* You misjudge his goodfellowship then.'

* Truly, I think not well of him : he always
hath secrets with thee, and I like It not.'

* That they are secrets Is thine own fault,
Peggy. How can I teach thee my secrets If
thou wilt not open thine ears to hear them ?'

* I would your lordship would teach me !' said
Dorothy. ' I might not be an apt pupil, but I
should be both an eager and a humble one.'

* By St. Patrick ! mistress Dorothy, but you
go straight to steal my husband's heart from
me. ''Humble," forsooth! and "eager" too!
Nay ! nay ! If I have no part In his brain, I
can the less yield his heart.'

'What would be gladly learned would be
gladly taught, cousin,' said lord Herbert.

' There ! there !' exclaimed lady Margaret ;

The Magician! s Vault. 201

* I knew it would be so. You discharge your
poor dull apprentice the moment you find a
clever one !'

* And why not ? I never was able to teach
thee anything.'

* Ah, Ned, there you are unkind indeed!' said
lady Margaret, with something in her voice that
suggested the water-springs were swelling.

' My shamrock of four !' said her husband in
the tenderest tone, * I but jested with thee.
How shouldst thou be my pupil in anything I
can teach ? I am yours in all that is noble and
good. I did not mean to vex you, sweet heart.'

' 'Tis gone again, Ned,' she answered, smil-
ing. * Give cousin Dorothy her first lesson.'

' It shall be that, then, to w^hich I sought in
vain to make thee listen this very morning — a
certain great saying of my lord of Verulam,
mistress Dorothy. I had learnt it by heart that
I might repeat it word for word to my lady, but
she would none of it.'

* May I not hear it, madam ?' said Dorothy.

' We will both hear it, Herbert, if you will
pardon your foolish wife and admit her to
grace.' And as she spoke she laid her hand
on his sooty arm.

202 5/. George a^td St. Michael.

He answered her only with a smile, but such
a one as sufficed.

' Listen then, ladies both,' he said. ' My
lord of Verulam, having quoted the words of
Solomon, *' The glory of God is to conceal a
thing, but the glory of the king is to find it out,"
adds thus, of his own thought concerning them,
— " as if," says my lord, " according to the inno-
cent play of children, the divine majesty took
delight to hide his works, to the end to have
them found out, and as if kings could not obtain
a greater honour than to be God's playfellows
in that game, considering the great command-
ment of wits and means, whereby nothing
needeth to be hidden from them." '

' That was very well for my lord of — what
did'st thou call him, Ned ?'

* Francis Bacon, lord Verulam,' returned
Herbert, with a queer smile.

* Very well for my lord of Veryflam !' resumed
lady Margaret, with a mock, yet bewitching
affectation of innocence and ignorance ; ' but
tell me had he ? — nay, I am sure he had not a
wild Irishwoman sitting breaking her heart in
her bower all day long for his company. He
could never else have had the heart to say it. —

The Magicians Vault. 203

Mistress Dorothy/ she went on, 'take the
counsel of a forsaken wife, and lay It to thy
heart : never marry a man who loves lathes and
pipes and wheels and water and fire, and I
know not what. But do come in ere bed-time,
Herbert, and I will sing thee the sweetest of
English ditties, and make thee such a sack-
posset as never could be made out of old Ireland
any more than the song.'

But her husband that moment sprang from
her side, and shouting 'Caspar! Caspar!'
bounded to the furnace, reached up with his
iron rod Into the darkness over his head, caught
something with the hooked end of it, and pulled
hard. A man who from somewhere in the
gloomy place had responded like a greyhound
to his master's call, did the like on the other
side. Instantly followed a fierce, protracted,
sustained hiss, and In a moment the place was
filled with a white cloud, whence issued still the
hideous hiss, changing at length to a roar.
Lady Margaret turned in terror, ran out of the
keep, and fled across the bridge and through
the archway before she slackened her pace.
Dorothy followed, but more composedly, led by
duty, not driven by terror, and Indeed reluc-

204 '^^' George and St. Michael.

tantly forsaking a spot where was so much she
did not understand.

They had fled from the Infant roar of the
* first stock-father' of steam-engines, whose
cradle was that feudal keep, eight centuries old.

That night Dorothy lly down weary enough.
It seemed a month since she had been in her
own bed at Wyfern, so many new and strange
things had crowded into her house, hitherto so
still. Every now and then the darkness heaved
and rippled with some noise of the night. The
stamping of horses, and the ringing of their
halter chains, seemed very near her. She
thought she heard the howl of Marquis from
afar, and said to herself, ' The poor fellow can-
not sleep ! I must get my lord to let me have
him in my chamber.' Then she listened a
while to the sweet flow of the water from the
mouth of the white horse, which in general
went on all night long. Suddenly came an
awful sound — like a howl also, but such as
never left the throat of dog. Again and
again at intervals it came, with others like it
but not the same, torturing the dark with a
dismal fear. Dorothy had never heard the cry
of a wild beast, but the suggestion that these

The Magicians Vault, 205

might be such cries, and the recollection that
she had heard such beasts were in Raglan
Castle, came together to her mind. She was
so weary, however, that worse noises than these
could hardly have kept her awake ; not even
her weariness could prevent them from following
her into her dreams.



such a hking to Dorothy, partly
at first because of the good store
of merriment with which she and
her mastiff had provided him, that he was dis-
appointed when he found her place was not to
be at his table but the housekeeper s. As he
said himself, however, he did not meddle with
women's matters, and indeed it would not do
for lady Margaret to show her so much favour
above her other women, of whom at least one
was her superior in rank, and all were relatives
as well as herself.

Dorothy did not much relish their society,
but she had not much of it except at meals,
when, however, they always treated her as an

Sevej^al People. 207

Interloper. Every day she saw more or less
of lady Margaret, and found in her such
sweetness, if not quite evenness of temper, as
well as gaiety of disposition, that she learned
to admire as well as love her. Sometimes she
had her to read to her, sometimes to work with
her, and almost every day she made her prac-
tise a little on the harpsichord. Hence she
not only improved rapidly in performance, but
grew capable of receiving more and more
delight from music. There was a fine little
organ in the chapel, on which blind young
Delaware, the son of the marquis's master of
the horse, used to play delightfully; and al-
though she never entered the place, she would
stand outside listeninof to his music for an
hour at a time in the twilight, or sometimes
even after dark. For as yet she indulged
\yithout question all the habits of her hitherto
free life, as far as was possible within the castle
walls, and the outermost of these were of great
circuit, enclosing lawns, shrubberies, wilder-
nesses, flower and kitchen gardens, orchards,
great fish - ponds, little lakes with fountains,
islands, and summer-houses — not to mention
the farmyard, and indeed a little park, in

2o8 St Geo7'ge and St. Michael.

which were some of the finest trees upon the

The gentlewomen with whom Dorothy was,
by her position in the household, associated,
were three in number. One was a rather
elderly, rather plain, rather pious lady, who
did not insist on her pretensions to either of
the epithets. The second was a short, plump,
round-faced, good-natured, smiling woman of
sixty, excelling in fasts and mortifications,
which somehow seemed to agree with her
body as well as her soul. The third was
only two or three years older than Dorothy,
and was pretty, except when she began to
speak, and then for a moment there was a
strange discord in her features. She took a
dislike to Dorothy, as she said herself, the in-
stant she cast her eyes upon her. She could
not bear that prim, set face, she said. The
country-bred heifer evidently thought herself
superior to every one in the castle. She was
persuaded the minx was a sly one, and would
carry tales. So judged mistress Amanda
Serafina Fuller, after her kind. Nor was It
wonderful that, being such as she was, she
should recoil with antipathy from one whose

Several People. 209

nature had a tendency to ripen over soon, and
stunt its slow orbicular expansion to the pre-
mature and false completeness of a narrow and
self-sufficing conscientiousness.

Doubtless if Dorothy had shown any marked
acknowledgment of the precedency of their
rights — any eagerness to conciliate the abo-
rigines of the circle, the ladies would have been
more friendly inclined ; but while capable of
endless love and veneration, there was little of
the conciliatory in her nature. Hence Mrs,
Doughty looked upon her with a rather stately
indifference, my lady Broughton with a mild
wish to save her poor, proud, protestant soul,
and mistress Amanda Serafina said she hated
her ; but then ever since the Fall there has been
a disproportion betwixt the feelings of young
ladies and the language in which they represent
them. Mrs. Doughty neglected her, and
Dorothy did not know it ; lady Broughton
said solemn things to her, and she never saw
the point of them ; but when mistress Amanda
half closed her eyes and looked at her in
snake - Geraldine fashion, she met her with
a full, wide-orbed, questioning gaze, before
which Amanda's eyes dropped, and she sank

VOL. I. o

2 1 o Sf. George and St. Michael.

full fathom five towards the abyss of real

During the dinner hour, the three generally
talked together in an impregnable manner — not
that they were by any means bosom-friends,
for two of them had never before united in
anything except despising good, soft lady
Broughton. When they were altogether in
their mistress's presence, they behaved to
Dorothy and to each other with studious

The ladies Elizabeth and Anne, had their
gentlewomen also, in all only three, however,
who also ate at the housekeeper's table, but
kept somewhat apart from the rest — yet were,
in a distant way, friendly to Dorothy.

But hers, as we have seen, was a nature far
more capable of attaching itself to a few than of
pleasing many ; and her heart went out to lady
Margaret, whom she would have come ere long
to regard as a mother, had she not behaved to
her more like an elder sister. Lady Margaret's
own genuine behaviour had indeed little of the
matronly in it ; when her husband came into
the room, she seemed to grow instantly
younger, and her manner changed almost to

Seve7^al People. 2 1 1

that of a playful girl. It is true, Dorothy had
been struck with the dignity of her manner
amid all the frankness of her reception, but she
soon found that, although her nature was full of
all real dignities, that which belonged to her
carriage never appeared in the society of those
she loved, and was assumed only, like the thin
shelter of a veil, in the presence of those whom
she either knew or trusted less. Before her
ladies, she never appeared without some
restraint — manifest in a certain measuredness
of movement, slowness of speech, and choice of
phrase ; but before a month was over, Dorothy
was delighted to find that the reserve instantly
vanished when she happened to be left alone
with her.

She took an early opportunity of informing
her mistress of the relationship between herself
and Scudamore, stating that she knew little or
nothing of him, having seen him only once
before she came to the castle. The youth on
his part took the first fitting opportunity of
addressing her in lady Margaret's presence,
and soon they were known to be cousins all
over the castle.

With lady Margaret's help, Dorothy came

212 SL George and St. Michael.

to a tolerable understanding of Scudamore.
Indeed her ladyship's judgment seemed but a
development of her own feeling concerning

* Rowland is not a bad fellow,' she said, ' but
I cannot fully understand, whence he comes in
such grace with my lord Worcester. If it were
my husband now, I should not marvel : he is so
much occupied with things and engines, that he
has as little time as natural inclination to doubt
any one who will only speak largely enough to
satisfy his idea. But my lord of Worcester
knows well enough that seldom are two things
more unlike than men and their words. Yet
that is not what I mean to say of your cousin :
he is no hypocrite — means not to be false, but
has no rule of right in him so far as I can
find. He is pleasant company ; his gaiety, his
quips, his readiness of retort, his courtesy and
what not, make him a favourite ; and my lord
hath in a manner reared him, which goes to
explain much. He is quick yet indolent, good-
natured but selfish, generous but counting
enjoyment the first thing, — though, to speak
truth of him, I have never known him do a
dishonourable action. But, in a word, the star

Several People, -213

of duty has not yet appeared above his horizon.
Pardon me, Dorothy, if I am severe upon him.
More or less I may misjudge him, but this is
how I read him ; and if you wonder that I
should be able so to divide him, I have but to
tell you that I should be unapt indeed if I had
not yet learned of my husband to look into the
heart of both men and things.'

' But, madam,' Dorothy ventured to say,
* have you not even now told me that from
very goodness my lord is easily betrayed ?'

' Well replied, my child ! It is true, but only
while he has had no reason to mistrust. Let
him once perceive ground for dissatisfaction or
suspicion, and his eye is keen as light itself to
penetrate and unravel.'

Such good qualities as lady Margaret ac-
corded her cousin were of a sort more fitted
to please a less sedate and sober-minded damsel
than Dorothy, who was fashioned rather after
the model of a puritan than a royalist maiden.
Pleased with his address and his behaviour
to herself as she could hardly fail to be, she yet
felt a lingering mistrust of him, which sprang
quite as much from the immediate impres-
sion as from her mistress's judgment of him,

214 ^^- George and St. Michael.

for it always gave her a sense of not coming
near the real man in him. There is one thing a
hypocrite even can never do, and that is, hide
the natural signs of his hypocrisy ; and Row-
land, who was no hypocrite, only a man not
half so honourable as he xhose to take himself
for, could not conceal his unreality from the
eyes of his simple country cousin. Little,
however, did Dorothy herself suspect whence
she had the idea, — that it was her girlhood's
converse with real, sturdy, honest, straight-
forward, simple manhood, in the person of the
youth of fiery temper, and obstinate, opinion-
ated, sometimes even rude behaviour, whom
she had chastised with terms of contemptuous
rebuke, which had rendered her so soon capable
of distinguishing between a profound and a
shallow, a genuine and an unreal nature, even
when the latter comprehended a certain power
of fascination, active enough to be recognisable
by most of the women in the castle.

Concerning this matter, it will suffice to say
that lord Worcester — who ruled his household
with such authoritative wisdom that honest Dr.
Bayly avers he never saw a better-ordered
family — never saw a man drunk or heard an

Several People. 215

oath amongst his servants, all the time he was
chaplain in the castle, — would have been scan-
dalized to know the freedoms his favourite
indulged himself in, and regarded as privileged

There was much coming and going of visitors
— more now upon state business than matters
of friendship or ceremony ; and occasional
solemn conferences were held in the marquis's
private room, at which sometimes lord John,
who was a personal friend of the king's, and
sometimes lord Charles, the governor of the
castle, with perhaps this or that officer of
dignity in the household, would be present ;
but whoever was or was not present, lord
Herbert when at home was always there, some-
times alone with his father and commissioners
from the king. His absences, however, had
grown frequent now that his majesty had
appointed him general of South Wales, and
he had considerable forces under his command
— mostly raised by himself, and maintained at
his own and his father's expense.

It was some time after Dorothy had twice in
one day met him darkling, before she saw him
in the light, and was able to peruse his coun-

2 1 6 St George and St. Michael.

tenance, which she did carefully, with the
mingled instinct and insight of curious and
thoughtful girlhood. He had come home from
a journey, changed his clothes, and had some
food ; and now he appeared in his wife's par-
lour — to sun himself a little, he said. When he
entered, Dorothy, who was seated at her mis-
tress's embroidery frame, while she was herself
busy mending some Flanders lace, rose to
leave the room. But he prayed her to be
seated, saying gayly,

' I would have you see, cousin, that I am no
beast of prey that loves the darkness. I can
endure the daylight. Come, my lady, have
you nothing to amuse your soldier with ? No
good news to tell him ? How is my little
Molly ?'

During the conjugal talk that followed, his
cousin had good opportunity of making her
observations. First she saw a fair, well-pro-
portioned forehead, with eyes whose remark-
able clearness looked as if it owed itself to the
mingling of manly confidence with feminine
trustfulness. They were dark, not very large,
but rather prominent, and full of light. His
nose was a little aquiline, and perfectly formed.

Several People, 217

A soft obedient moustache, brushed thoroughly
aside, revealed right generous lips, about which
hovered a certain sweetness ever ready to break
into the blossom of a smile. That and a small
tuft below was all the hair he wore upon his
face. Rare conjunction, the whole of the coun-
tenance was remarkable both for symmetry
and expression — the latter mainly a bright in-
telligence ; and if, strangely enough, the
predominant sweetness and delicacy at first
suggested genius unsupported by practical
faculty, there was a plentifulness and strength
in the chin which helped to correct the
suggestion, and with the brightness and pro-
minence of the eyes and the radiance of the
whole, to give a brave, almost bold look to a
face which could hardly fail to remind
those who knew them of the lovely verses of
Matthew Raydon, describing that of sir Philip
Sidney :

A sweet attractive kinde of grace,

A full assurance given by lookes,
Continuall comfort in a face,

The lineaments of Gospell-bookes ;
I trowe that countenance cannot lie
Whose thoughts are legible in the eie.

Notwithstanding the disadvantages of the

2 1 8 St George mid St. Michael.

fashion, in the mechanical pursuits to which he
had hitherto devoted his Hfe, he wore, Hke Mil-
ton's Adam, his wavy hair down to his shoulders.
In his youth, it had been thick and curling ;
now it was thinner and straighter, yet curled
where it lay. His hands were small, with the
taper fingers that indicate the artist, while his
thumb was that of the artizan, square at the
tip, with the first joint curved a good deal back.
That they were hard and something discoloured
was not for Dorothy to wonder at, when she
remembered what she had both heard and seen
of his occupations.

I may here mention that what aided Doro-
thy much in the interpretation of lord Her-
bert's countenance and the understanding of
his character — for it was not on this first
observation of him that she could discover all
I have now set down — and tended largely to
the development of the immense reverence she
conceived for him, was what she saw of his
behaviour to his father one evening not long
after, when, having been invited to the mar-
quis's table, she sat nearly opposite him at
supper. With a willing ear and ready smile
for every one who addressed him, notably

Sevo^al People, 2 1 9

courteous where all were courteous, he gave
chief observance, amounting to an almost
tender homage, to his father. His thoughts
seemed to wait upon him with a fearless
devotion. He listened intently to all his
jokes, and laughed at them heartily, evidently
enjoying them even when they were not very
good ; spoke to him with profound though easy
respect ; made haste to hand him whatever
he seemed to want, preventing Scudamore ;
and indeed conducted himself like a dutiful
youth, rather than a man over forty. Their
confident behaviour, wherein the authority of
the one and the submission of the other were
acknowledged with co-relative love, was beauti-
ful to behold.

When husband and wife had conferred for
a while, the former stretched on a settee em-
broidered by the skilful hands of the latest-
vanished countess, his mother, and the latter
seated near him on a narrow tall-backed chair,
mending her lace, there came a pause in their
low-toned conversation, and his lordship look-
ing up seemed anew to become aware of the
presence of Dorothy.

' Well, cousin,' he said, ' how have you fared

2 20 St. George and St. Michael.

since we half-saw each other a fortnight

* I have fared well indeed, my lord, I thank
you/ said Dorothy, * as your lordship may
judge, knowing whom I serve. In two short
weeks my lady loads me with kindness enough
to requite the loyalty of a life.'

* Look you, cousin, that I should believe
such laudation of any less than an angel ? '
said his lordship with mock gravity.

* No, my lord,' answered Dorothy.

There was a moment's pause ; then lord
Herbert laughed aloud.

'Excellent well, mistress Dorothy!' he
cried. * Thank your cousin, my lady, for a
compliment worthy of an Irishwoman.'

* I thank you, Dorothy,' said her mistress ;
' although. Irishwoman as I am, my lord hath
put me out of love with compliments.'

' When they are true and come unbidden, my
lady,' said Dorothy.

* What ! are there such compliments, cousin V
said lord Herbert.

* There are birds of Paradise, my lord, though
rarely encountered.'

* Birds of Paradise indeed ! they alight not

Several People. 2 2 1

in this world. Birds of Paradise have no legs,
they say.

' They need them not, my lord. Once
alighted, they fly no more.'

'How is it then they alight so seldom ? '

* Because men shoo them away. One flew

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 10 12 13 14

Online LibraryGeorge MacDonaldSt. George and St. Michael (Volume 1) → online text (page 10 of 14)