Citation
Melcomb Manor

Material Information

Title:
Melcomb Manor : a family chronicle arranged from the papers of Richard Brent, Esq., sometime of Melcomb
Creator:
Potter, F. Scarlett ( Frederick Scarlett ), b. 1834 ( Author, Primary )
Greenaway, Kate, 1846-1901 ( Illustrator )
Marcus Ward & Co ( Publisher )
Pott, Young, and Company ( Publisher )
Place of Publication:
London
New York
Publisher:
Marcus Ward & Co.
Pott, Young, & Co.
Publication Date:
Copyright Date:
1875
Language:
English
Physical Description:
148 p. : col. ill. ; 22 cm.

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords:
Voyages and travels -- Juvenile fiction ( lcsh )
Young women -- Juvenile fiction ( lcsh )
Children and death -- Juvenile fiction ( lcsh )
Adventure and adventurers -- Juvenile fiction ( lcsh )
Courtship -- Juvenile fiction ( lcsh )
Ghosts -- Juvenile fiction ( lcsh )
Cousins -- Juvenile fiction ( lcsh )
Puritans -- Juvenile fiction ( lcsh )
Baldwin -- 1875
Genre:
novel ( marcgt )
Spatial Coverage:
England -- London
United States -- New York -- New York
Target Audience:
juvenile ( marctarget )

Notes

General Note:
Ill. attributed to Kate Greenaway by Detroit Public Library and by Osborne Coll., cited below.
General Note:
Color illustartions are onlays in a double ruled border.
Statement of Responsibility:
by F. Scarlett Potter ; with six illustrations in gold and colours.

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Florida
Holding Location:
University of Florida
Rights Management:
This item is presumed to be in the public domain. The University of Florida George A. Smathers Libraries respect the intellectual property rights of others and do not claim any copyright interest in this item. Users of this work have responsibility for determining copyright status prior to reusing, publishing or reproducing this item for purposes other than what is allowed by fair use or other copyright exemptions. Any reuse of this item in excess of fair use or other copyright exemptions may require permission of the copyright holder. The Smathers Libraries would like to learn more about this item and invite individuals or organizations to contact The Department of Special and Area Studies Collections (special@uflib.ufl.edu) with any additional information they can provide.
Resource Identifier:
ALH6639 ( NOTIS )
12799068 ( OCLC )
026922506 ( AlephBibNum )

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Full Text


Fe One etry UMTS











THE MESSENGER.

FIAPPY BIRD forth winging
_ Through the sunny sky,
To thy far home bringing
My forlorn good-bye,
Gladly,.dladly thou dost go,
Thou, the messenger of woe!

Better thus uncaring
Climb thy gusty road,
Why shouldst thou be sharing .
In thy bitter load !
Who could wisn glad nature’ glee
Saddened by our misery!



A LOOKED-FOR MESSENGER,









A Samily Chronicle

ARRANGED FROM THE PAPERS OF RICHARD BRENT, ESQ, |

SOMETIME OF MELCOMB

BY

FE. SCARLET LE (POTTER

AUTIIOR OF ‘*THE VOLSUNG TALE,” ETC.

WITH SIX ILLUSTRATIONS, IN GOLD AND COLORS



London:

MARCUS WARD & CO., 67 &




68, CHANDOS STREET, COVENT GARDEN
NEW YORK : POTT, YOUNG, & CO., COOPER UNION, FOURTH AVENUE
1875

i)
AX3)
» ig S

MELCOMB MANOR |






















CON Tee ToS.



PAGE

PROLOGUE, . : , ; : : - : CNM
MISTRESS ALICE MASSENGER—
THe Falcon AND THE DovVE, : ; : i ‘
InMATES AND NEIGHBOURS AT MELCOMB, . ’ Bhat)
RivaLs, .. , ; 2 : : 4 : 15
A SYRATAGEM IN LOVE, : ‘ ! : : oi AG
Wuatr FaTHER OSWALD SAW ABROAD, . : s 4 20
Wuar FATHER OSWALD saw AT HomE, é 4 : IM com
Tactics, . . : ! : : : ; 25
A PARTING, . é ‘ 5 y : ‘ Loa
DANGER, . : ; 4 a : 3 3 31
. News FROM THE MARCHES, . A : : ' HN
Tue Hour or NEED, . : ; : 4 ! 37
REVELATIONS, - : : , . : 3 - 39
SUNSHINE, . : i F i i i x 42
INTERLOGUE L., ea : 4 ; 5 : : - 44
THE GREEN HUNTSMAN—
AFLOAT, i y : $ : 5 : : 46
A Court GALLANT, . 4 i p ; mt ‘NGI
A New Love, : : A ; “ : 54
Tue OLp Love, : : ie ; . 58
Tue SroneE Huntinc Lopcr, . Lie : : 60
PARLEY, : : : : : : , . 65
War DECLARED, . i ; . ; : dH 69
A SHOT WITH THE CROSS-BOW, ‘ " : senha



A





Contents.



INTERLOGUE IL, F .

JEST AND EARNEST—
Two Houses,
Momus,
ANTIQUARIAN MATTERS,
THE RENDEZVOUS, .
A FAtse SCENT,
FORSAKEN, .
A Love TEsT, .
SHADOWS OF THE NIGHY, -
Mornine,

INTERLOoGUE IIL,

| THe KerEper’s Srory,
A Mipnicut Warcu,
THe Mystery UNSOLVED,
A Lovers’ MEETING,
FATHER AND DAUGHTER,
RENUNCIATION,

EPILOGUE,

CHROMOGRAPHS.



A Looken-ror MESSENGER (p. 37),
More THAN Kin,

Less tHan KIND,

A Missive IN JEst,

A Lovers’ MEETING,

Tue Last Hore Gong,

THE GHOST OF THE HAUNTED HOLLOW—

*

Frontispiece.

PAGE

79

- IO

105

108

Tit

. 114

116

. 118

I22

. 126

130

- 135

140

Sy)

48
60
88

130

- 144







MELCOMB MANOR.



PROLOGUE.

g|HE twilight is gathering round me as I am sitting in
the great wainscoted parlour of my old manor-house,
Melcomb Manor. Through the dim quarries in the
mullioned windows, I can see the leaves drifting down-
wards, now faster and now more slowly, as the pelting rain and
the cold November wind come driving by. I am alone here,
quite alone, for I am a widower and childless; so it is not
strange that at times like this I should be troubled with gloomy
thoughts.

“The wind has torn great branches from the old trees, for
they are grown hollow and decayed through age; and in the
old house the walls lean aslant, and big cracks have opened.
What does it matter? Iam an old man, and when I am gone
the old place will pass to a new name and strange owners.
There have been Brents of Melcomb for four centuries and more,
but I shall be the last of the name.

I say, “ Let ruin come, and what does it matter 2?” Yet I love
this old place better than all the world beside. Well-nigh my
whole life has been spent in this house. I have seen some joy
in it, and when sorrow came it found me here. I have, years ago,
ceased caring to mix with mankind, and my griefs have made me











8 Melcomb Manor.

cling more closely to these familiar walls. So it is that now,
when I must needs find occupation to drive away the thoughts
that vex me, I have resolved to write the histories of some of
those that have lived here—by-gone members of my house, with
whose lives I am familiar from family papers and traditions. Of
nothing else could I so much care to write; and, who knows,
there may be some who will care to read what I shall have
written.

The Manor of Melcomb, as our oldest charter sets forth; was
anciently a part of the possessions of the great Earl of Leicester ;
but after his forfeiture, it was, upon the tenure of a man-at-
arms to do duty in the Welsh Marches, granted to one Hugh
Massenger, in reward for services done to the king at the battle
of Evesham and elsewhere, during the Barons’ Wars.

It was by the above-named esquire that the first house at
Melcomb was founded, and some remains of the buildings which -
he raised are still to be traced out by those curious in such
matters; though most part of the dwelling, as it now stands, is of
later times. This earliest house would seem to have been in no
way a place of strength, but, for the age in which it was built, it
must have been a fair and goodly abode. From Hugh Massenger
the manor passed to his only son, also named Hugh.

According to an ancient record among our muniments, this
second Hugh Massenger had, by his wife Dame Eleanor, five
sons and one daughter, of whom Reginald, the eldest, was, by
misadventure of Stephen, the second, slain with a birding-bolt ;
whereupon Stephen went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land,
and there died. Shortly afterwards, the three younger sons—
Ralph, Henry, and Walter—all perished in the wars of those
times; the two last, Henry and Walter, being slain in one day,
both of them together, like the sons of Eli the Priest. Whereby
it came to pass, that in his old age this Hugh Massenger had no
issue left to him but his youngest child, Alice ; and it is of her
that I shall first have to write more at large.









MISTRESS ALICE MASSENGER.

I.—THE FALCON AND THE DOVE.

'HE afternoon sun was shining brightly, and Mistress
Alice Massenger had stepped out into her pleasaunce,
that she might feed her doves. Although Mistress
Alice had just reached an age at which pleasure is most
keenly relished, her life as yet had not been one to afford her
much variety of enjoyment. For since the evil news had been
brought to Melcomb that her last remaining brother was dead,
her mother, Dame Eleanor, had sunk into hopeless weakness
both of body and mind; so that between frequent attendance
in her mother’s chamber, and the charge of the household,
which had now fallen upon her, the life of Mistress Alice was
one rather of duty than of pleasure. Hence it was that she
turned the more lovingly to such quiet, homely delights as her
flowers and her doves.

Thus Mistress Alice was well pleased to watch the gentle
birds as they flocked around her, and daintily gathered up the
scattered grain; and again, when satisfied with their meal, they
‘rose above her into the air, whirling in wider and wider flights.
But her pleasure was soon to give place to alarm, for as she
watched, a falcon darted upwards from among the trees, and
swooped down upon the terrified pigeons. It was in vain that
they huddled together and flew homewards for protection; the









IO Melcomb Manor.

hawk followed, striking ae ‘nae ae most eaened
favourite—bearing it to the ground within the bounds of the
garden, and almost at the feet of its mistress.

If fair Mistress Alice Massenger had been a bolder damsel,
she would at once have tried to free her pet from its captor; but
Alice was not bold, and she feared the formidable beak and
claws of the falcon ; so she did what seemed to her to be the first
and most natural thing to do—that is to say, she screamed for
help, and somewhat loudly.

It may be that she did so in a louder voice than was needful,
for help was nearer at hand than she had supposed. Almost at
the moment, a young man leaped ever the low fence of the
pleasaunce, and ran quickly towards the dove, which still
struggled in the falcon’s clutch. He would have proceeded more
deliberately, but Mistress Alice prayed him to save her favourite ;
and as he could see no other ready way of releasing it alive, he
dealt the falcon a blow on the head with the hawking-pole which
he carried, that laid it motionless. Then taking up the bleeding
pigeon, he handed it tenderly to its mistress.

For a few moments the whole thoughts of the maiden were
given to her wounded pet; but though at first it lay motionless
in her hands, and was somewhat ruffled and torn, she soon saw
that its fright was greater than its hurt ; and she then turned that
she might offer her thanks to the stranger who had rescued it.

The young man was kneeling over ‘the falcon, as though
trying to bring it back to life. He was not, as Mistress Alice
thought, an ill-favoured youth, although his face was brown from
sun and wind, and his dress, which was such as might have been
worn by a huntsman or falconer, bore the marks of long travel
and hard service. The look of anxiety with which he regarded
the bird convinced her that he must have been its owner, and
that it was dearly prized. As the lady made these observations,
he rose from his fruitless labour, for such it was; the falcon
was dead.

“JT am greatly bounden to you, good youth,” she said, “for
the life of my dove; yet I fear me that you have rescued it at
too great a cost to yourself.”











Lhe Falcon and the Dove. II

“ As to that, fair lady,” he replied, “I have, indeed, lost as
good a falcon as any in this realm, though she were but a falcon-
lanier; and in her I may well say that I have lost my one
possession and my only friend.”

“Alas!” said Mistress Alice; “if it were thus, better by far
that the dove had been slain.”

“Not so, fair lady; I have but paid the price of my own
heedlessness in letting my falcon escape, by mischance, from my
fist; and for the rest you owe me no thanks, for I ‘did only what
every true man is bounden to do for every damsel who needs
service, let the loss to himself thereby be what it may.”

From the humble dress of the stranger youth, Alice had
scarcely looked for so much of the spirit of chivalry from his lips
as was shown in this speech; but it pleased her, nevertheless.
She only answered him, however, by repeating her thanks, and
asking if there were no way in which she could do him some
service in requital for the death of his hawk.

“T am,” he replied, “as you doubtless see, a stranger in these
parts. My birth-place is in the north country, and the name by
which I am known is Giles Burston. As to my history, it is one
but too often heard in these evil times. My kindred, as reason
would, have followed the fortunes of their liege lord, and have
suffered in his ruin; so that I have in my own country neither
home nor friends left to me. I now seek to gain service as a
huntsman or a falconer with any lord or gentleman who will give
meat and shelter in return for a strong arm and a willing heart.
It was for this purpose that I was making my way to Melcomb,
when my hawk broke her jesses, and I followed her hither.”

“Jt is well,” said Mistress Alice; “I will speak for you to
* my father.”

The young man bowed, and retired to make his way by the
more ordinary entrance to Melcomb Manor.











12 Mistress Alice Massenger.





II.—INMATES AND NEIGHBOURS AT MELCOMB.

N re-entering the house, Mistress Alice lost no time in

seeking the great hall, for it was there that her father was
always to be found at that hour of the day. The part of the
house at Melcomb in which this was situated has long since °
given place to rooms better suited to the habits of later ages.
It was a long and tolerably wide and lofty apartment, the
timbered roof being open to the ridge-tree. The wide fire-place
was innocent of a chimney, for, as I have been given to under-
stand, that curious invention was not introduced till some fift
years later. Across the upper end of the hall was the table of
dais, reserved for the master of the house, his family, and his
more important guests; whilst the lower part of the room was
common to the inferior members of the household.

By reason of his age, the old lord of Melcomb had long since
ceased from taking any part in military matters, or in the more
active business of life. His mornings, when the season warranted,
were generally still occupied with field sports; but after the
noontide dinner, he rarely left his seat on the dais, but passed
his time with the flagon, and such company as fortune threw in
his way.

When Mistress Alice entered to relate the adventure of the
hawk and the dove, and to make her request to her father, she
found him in conversation with the two individuals who at that
period formed his most ordinary society. Neither of them
could be called young men, although the united ages of the two
would not have greatly exceeded that of their host.

One of these was Sir John Bigod, whose lands and castle of
Hilworth Bigod were so near to Melcomb, that he might be said
to be Master Hugh Massenger’s nearest neighbour. Yet till quite
recently he had been but little known to the old esquire; for
Sir John, who bore the reputation of being a hardy soldier, had
all his life been busied in the many wars of those times, and had
of late years held divers commands in The Marches, under the
great Gilbert Fitz-Turold, where he was said to mix with the











Inmates and Neighbours at Melcomd. 13



native Welsh “like salt among eels.” But there was now some
short space of quiet in those parts, and Sir John had retired to
recreate himself for a while on his patrimonial estate.

Thus it came that the ancient lord of Melcomb had but little
sure knowledge of the knight’s past life. Rumour, indeed, told
many things of it which it was not good to hear; but to these
Hugh Massenger gave small heed, knowing well that in those
days of evil deeds and misrule no man who took an active part
in public affairs could escape without blame, or altogether with-
out deserving it. For the rest, he was by no means disposed to
be displeased with the friendly overtures of a neighbour so much
more powerful than himself.

There were, indeed, some who were ready to affirm that Sir
John Bigod’s friendship was not altogether disinterested, but who
hinted that he coveted the fair lands of Melcomb, and designed
to add them to his own by a union with their heiress. If such
were the case, the desire was not an unreasonable one on his
part, for the two manors, throughout their whole length, were
separated only by a small stream, and to no one else could the
domain of Melcomb have been so valuable.

Master Massenger’s second companion was an ecclesiastic.
The scheme of the modest household at Melcomb Manor was
not supposed to include a chaplain; yet Father Oswald had for
months past been a resident there, and had performed many of
the duties proper to such a functionary. Some two years before
the time of which I am speaking, the worthy father had sought
the neighbouring priory of Halliford as a retreat till certain
political troubles in which he was involved should have blown
over, and had afterwards found a shelter at Melcomb. It is true
that an amnesty had now been granted to all those engaged in
the Earl of Lancaster’s affair, who had not already suffered ; but
still, the good priest seemed in no haste to leave his new friends
for the country whence his old ones had been removed by the
executioner or by forfeiture. At Melcomb he found himself duly
appreciated. No small portion of his time was required to direct
Dame Eleanor’s devotions ; and he was quite ready to share in
the sports, or to take a moderate part in a carouse with her







14 Mistress Alice Massenger.

husband, who found him at all times a jovial and pleasant com-
panion. Yet under an easy exterior Father Oswald carried an
active and able brain, and one that had been found of no mean
service in the plottings of his northern friends.

The presence of the worthy priest was in no way unpleasing
to Mistress Alice, who knew well that in him she might always
count upon a staunch ally. But she could well have dispensed
with that of the knight of Hilworth, towards whom she had
already formed a stronger feeling of dislike than she could have
defended by valid reasons ; and this feeling was heightened by
the dread that he might ere long become her suitor, and, if so,
a suitor whom it would be at the same time impossible to accept
and difficult to refuse.

So Alice told her little story as briefly as might be; and after
praying her father to interest himself on behalf of the stranger
whose service to her had been attended by so sad a misfortune
to himself, she at once withdrew.

Perhaps some thought of his own past sorrows touched the
heart of the priest, and inclined him to feel for those of the young
wanderer, as well as a desire to further the wishes of Mistress
Alice. “Alas!” he said, “for these evil times! Many there
be of noble blood and gentle breeding who are now homeless ;
it may be that the youth is one of these, and that he suffers not
by his own default. Let him not pass away unheard.”

“ Even as you say, Sir Priest,” answered the knight; these
are evil and lawless times, when outlaws and strong thieves do
violence throughout the land, and none check them; and when
no man knows whether the stranger who seeks hospitality at
nightfall may not be the spy to let in a band of plunderers at mid-
night. Therefore, I counsel our host to have a care in whatever
he does in this matter.”

As Sir John Bigod finished his admonition, young Burston
was ushered into the hall. He had little, to say of himself more
than we have already heard; but his face and bearing pleased
the old esquire, and when he received a signal to retire, it was
with the understanding that he was. engaged to remain at
Melcomb in the capacity of falconer.











Rivals. TS



“He is none of this country,” said Father Oswald, when
Burston was seated out of ear-shot, at the lower end of the hall ;
“and yet there is that in the looks of the youth which recalls
some face I have known well, though whose face it may be I
cannot say.”

Sir John did not speak; yet if he had given expression to the
thought that was at that moment passing through his mind, he
would have used well-nigh the same words.

III.—RIVALS.

{SILES BURSTON, when established in his new post, did not
find its duties irksome, nor did time hang heavily on his hands,
and that for a certain reason not difficult to understand. Ever
since the adventure which had marked his arrival at Melcomb,
he had felt a deep interest in Mistress Alice ; and this interest
was in no danger of dying out, since, though at the distance
imposed upon him by his inferior position, he now had oppor-
tunities of seeing her constantly. In this he was favoured by
his occupation, for in fair weather Mistress Alice frequently rode
a-hawking with her father, and on these occasions Burston was
often able to display the same spirit of chivalrous devotion in her
service which had won her notice at their first interview. When
their sport was followed upon the uplands, the active falconer
was always ready to guide her palfrey in safety through the
morass or along the shelving path; or when they pursued the
larger game of the river, he did not hesitate to plunge, hawking-
pole in hand, into the stream whenever a ford had to be taken,
that he might lead him carefully past the dangerous pools. Nor
was his gallantry altogether unacceptable to Mistress Alice, who, :
retired as was her life, was not unaffected by that taste for
romance which characterised the more polished society of the
age, and was therefore quite ready to appreciate such conduct.
Indeed, there was much, both in the person and character of
young Burston, calculated to gain the regard of such a maiden;









I

6 Mistress Alice Massenger.

and it is quite possible that the social difference between them,
which would, under ordinary circumstances, in those days, have
formed an insuperable obstacle to any feeling of interest on the
part of the lady, might in this case serve rather to arouse it, since
Alice could not but infer from the language and bearing of the
youth that he must have been born to a higher station than that
which he now occupied.

It is certain also that, inadvertently, Sir John Bigod was a
means of strengthening any interest that Mistress Alice might
feel in Giles Burston. In those days, as is well known, con-
siderations of policy or material advantage were more studied in
the arrangement of matches than the inclinations of young ladies ;
and Sir John had supposed that, after securing the father to his
interests, the daughter would comply, as a matter of course.
But although Hugh Massenger readily admitted that the match
would be advantageous and pleasing to himself, he had too tender
an affection for his one remaining child—the daughter of his old
age—to consent in any way to exert his authority in enforcing her
compliance. Thus the knight found that the success of his suit
must wholly depend upon his efforts to please the lady herself ;
and as his gallantry savoured rather of the camp than of the
court, it was little pleasing to a maiden of Alice’s disposition,
and she naturally turned from him towards one who in many
respects contrasted with him so favourably.

It was after a visit to Melcomb, during which Ae stout
knight of Hilworth had been compelled to admit to himself that
his suit made but sorry progress, that he resolved upon a notable
scheme of wooing, which will be seen to bring about important
results in the course of this chronicle. “ By ’r Lady!” he

cogitated, as he rode homewards through the deep mire caused
by the heavy rains, and turned over in his mind the events of the
day—* By ’r Lady! the pretty fool is too nice to lend an ear to
a plain, blunt soldier. May the fiend take the clerk who taught
her to read! She hath crammed her silly brain-pan with Lays
of Provence and Gestes of the old Bretons, and must needs have
some Sir Tristram or Sir Lancelot to woo her with his vagaries.
Well, be it so; an old soldier is not easily beaten from the

eae











4 Stratagem in Love. 17

field; I have seen somewhat of stratagems in war, and, if need
be, can try one in love. This Damsel Adventurous shall have
her perils, and the good knight Sir John Bigod shall be her
rescue ; and this, methinks, should go far with such a maiden
as my Mistress Alice.”

The politic knight was so taken with the humour of his own
device, that it held him in laughter for full a bowshot’s space, by
which time he came to the banks of the little river which he must
needs ford. He found the stream so swollen with the rains that he
was wet to the girdle, and his mirth was exchanged for curses long
before he had reached the opposite side. “I vow to St. Chris-
topher,” he exclaimed, as he spurred along the road for Hilworth,
“that when the banks on both sides are mine, I will build a
bridge over this accursed ford!” As this history is unfolded, we
shall see how soon Sir John had cause to keep his vow, or
whether occasion arose for it ever to be kept at all.

IvV.—A STRATAGEM IN LOVE.

N the course of his career, Sir John Bigod had engaged in
many undertakings for which, far more than for the present
innocent manceuvre, secret and unscrupulous agents were indis-
pensable,and he had not much difficultyin choosing from among his
followers three persons who were properly qualified for carrying
out his plans. These men, disguised as outlaws, were to seize and
carry off Mistress Alice, at such a time and by such a way as Sir
John should appoint them ; when they were to be met by himself,
and, after some show of resistance, put to flight. Of the real
alarm which such an adventure might cause to a tender maiden
the rough soldier took but little heed, whilst he relied much upon
her gratitude, and perhaps upon her admiration for his prowess,
for advancing him in her favour; nor did he doubt but that his
intimacy with the family at Melcomb, and his knowledge of their
movements, would soon enable him to fix a time for putting his
project in execution.











18 Mistress Alice Massenger.

Such an opportunity was afforded not long afterwards, by one
of those hawking excursions upon which the old esquire carried
his daughter with him. Sir John had himself been asked to
attend them, but he alleged business as an excuse for not being
present during the earlier part of the day, and held out a prospect
of joining them at a later hour.

In accordance with the early habits of the age, the old lord
of Melcomb and his daughter rode forth at sunrise, and pursued
their sport with varying success throughout the morning, their
only attendant being Giles Burston, who, for the better discharge
of his office, was on foot. Noon drew near, and as Sir John
Bigod had not yet presented himself, the party turned home-
wards. Leaving the tract of open country over which they had
hawked, they had already reached the skirts of the wood through
which lay the direct road to Melcomb, when game was sprung,
and a tiercelet was cast off for a final flight. The quarry was
struck far off in the open field; and whilst the old esquire rode
after it, and the falconer followed to reclaim the hawk, Mistress
Alice, who was by this time somewhat tired, remained under the
pleasant shade of the trees.

The falcon was hooded, and the partridge secured, and the
sportsmen came leisurely back to the spot from which they had
started ; but no Mistress Alice was now to be seen.

“ My daughter is wearied, and has turned homewards before
us,” said the old man; and with that he rode briskly forwards in
the direction of Melcomb, leaving the falconer to follow more
slowly.

In another instant Giles Burston would have taken the same
track, but at that moment he observed footprints and marks on
the trampled grass, which arrested his attention. There were
clearly the traces of two or three men close to the hoof-marks of
the palfrey, and equally fresh; and as the fears of a lover are
easily roused, these filled him with suspicion and alarm. Fol-
lowing the traces, which was a matter of difficulty, he had just con-
vinced himself that they did not turn down the path for Melcomb,
but diverged into one leading for a considerable distance through
an unfrequented part of the woods, when a smothered scream









A Stratagem in Love. 19

from the same direction reached his ear, and he at once dashed
forward at his swiftest speed. It was a narrow, winding track,
between thick trees and underwood ; and Burston pushed on, for
some time seeing nothing of tlfe objects of his pursuit. At length
he bounded up a hill, and sprang with still fleeter footsteps: down
the opposite slope; and now a sharp turn in the path brought
him suddenly upon them.

Mistress Alice was, indeed, in evil plight. Two varlets, in
the Kendal-green suits which formed the common livery of
outlaws, and with hoods drawn over their faces, guarded her on
either side, whilst a third led and urged along her palfrey.
Giles Burston saw this, and was upon them with his hawking-
pole at once.

The falconer was strong and active, and laid lustily about him ;
and after a few blows were exchanged, his opponents took to
their heels. To speak truth, having been only engaged to run
away, they had no special inducement to stay for the hard knocks
which were just then being freely dealt, and chose rather at once
to leave him in quiet possession of the field.

He was now able to turn to Mistress Alice, and it was in
good time that he did so, for she had fainted, and, but for his
ready help, would have fallen to the ground. He lifted her
gently from the saddle, and laid her upon the bank close at hand,
whilst a little rill, which came leaping down among the bushes
hard by, supplied him with water to sprinkle upon her face.
In a few minutes he had the satisfaction of seeing signs of
returning life.

To Alice Massenger, who, unlike ourselves, knew nothing of
Sir John’s romantic plot, this jocular abduction had all the terrors
of a real one; she could not tell to what perils she might not
be exposed in the hands of these miscreants, and she made
known her thankfulness to her deliverer in no reluctant terms.
Emboldened by her gratitude, the young falconer courteously
acknowledged his sense of it by kissing her hand. The homage
was not ungraciously received; and what wonder if, forgetting
every motive of prudence which might under other circumstances
have closed his lips, and being conscious only of the strangeness







20) Mistress Alice Massenger.



of the situation, the loneliness of the spot, and the fact that, for
the moment, all barriers between himself and the lady of his heart
were broken down, he should have poured into her ears all the
. story of his love, and that he should have found a willing listener ?
The deep, cool, mid-day shadow of the woods, the mossy bank,
and the sparkling rivulet, formed an admirable background to a
love scene ; but they were probably quite unnoticed by the young
pair who there plighted troth.

Giles Burston said many things; yet he did not, as Alice
doubtless expected, give any frank account of his birth or
parentage. On this score he only said, somewhat proudly,
“Before I claim my bride, I shall prove that in birth, at least, I
am not unworthy of her ;” and with this his mistress was content.
The kiss which sealed this compact was not impressed on the
lady’s hand, and the ceremony was scarcely completed when they
were startled by the trampling of horse-hoofs on the soft turf.
They looked up and saw, slowly riding down the path towards
them, Sir John Bigod.



V.—WHAT FATHER OSWALD SAW ABROAD.

ANY one might have supposed that a spot more secure from
intrusion than the one described could scarcely be found ;
and yet, as chance would have it, the knight of Hilworth Bigod
was not the only spectator of this tender scene. From a greater
distance, it is true, and somewhat indistinctly by reason of
intervening branches, yet clearly enough to convey something of
its import, it had also been observed by that worthy ecclesiastic,
Father Oswald.

Early on that day the good father had marched off, staff in
hand, over the hills, to pay a morning visit to his good friends,
the brethren of Halliford Priory ; there to discuss certain points
of discipline, and, by the way, certain horns of that strong ale for
which the establishment in question enjoyed so honourable a
reputation.







What Father Oswald saw A broad. 21



This controversy, unlike many discussions on religious ques-
tions, appears to have passed off most amicably, for the worthy
priest was pursuing his homeward journey in a state of the most
perfect charity with all mankind, and chanting as he went, in a
rather husky voice, some such edifying verse as this—

“ Then put aside all wrath,
For David shew’d us hath
Vinum letificat
Cor hominis ;”

when he came to the conclusion that the sun was very hot. He
had now reached the outskirts of Melcomb Wood, and the idea
of resting in the grateful shadow was irresistible ; so he sat down
at the root of a large oak surrounded by bushes, and proceeded
to refresh himself by finishing the small flask which, filled with a
choice vintage, his good friend the sub-prior had, in the excess
of hospitality, forced into his bosom at parting.

The shade was cool and pleasant; and after affectionately
pledging his friend, and draining the nethermost drop, the good
father was in no haste to move; so instead he leant his back to
the tree, and lazily hummed another stave of his carol—

“A merry heart in cage
Maketh a lusty age—”
but at this point a certain sight met his vision which at once
reduced him to a more serious frame of mind.

Through the tops of the low bushes by which he was himself
concealed, he saw first one, then a second, and then a third
figure, in the well-known guise of outlaws, emerge from the
covert. The sight filled him with alarm—not by any means on
his own account, for beyond his empty flask he had nothing to
lose ; and even with men so lawless as these might be supposed
to be, the person of a churchman was sure of respect—but he
feared that their presence might portend anything but good to
those who were now his best and dearest friends. Bands of such
banditti were at that time scattered but far too plentifully over
most districts of the country, but, fortunately, none had been
known to haunt the neighbourhood of Melcomb for a generation
past. What piece of mischief was there, then, on foot to bring









22 Mistress Alice Massenger.



these miscreants here? As he watched them through his leafy
screen, Bigod’s words of caution rose to Father Oswald’s memory.
Could it be possible that these fellows were in league with the
strange falconer for the perpetration of some scheme of plunder
or villany against the inmates of Melcomb Manor ?

At this instant he observed a horseman advancing at a rapid
pace along the road by which he had himself travelled, in whom
he soon recognised none other than Sir John Bigod. “Ha! ha!”
thought Father Oswald; “now this doughty knight comes
among us, my men in Kendal-green will show me that their com-
pany is wanted in haste elsewhere!” Great, therefore, was the
astonishment of the churchman when he saw that the apparent
outlaws, instead of flying, came forward to meet the knight as he
approached, and were soon engaged in close and, as it would
seem, confidential conversation with him.

Father Oswald’s observatory was at too great a distance from _

the group to permit of his overhearing anything that was said,
and the whole affair perplexed him in no moderate degree; but
from what he saw he drew a tolerably just inference—namely,
that whatever might be the underhand business afloat, Sir John
Bigod was privy to it, and he resolved to keep a shatp look-out
upon the knight for the future.

Full of this resolution, the priest continued to watch him
when the conference broke up, and Sir John rode slowly onwards
by the path that descended into the wood ; and keeping himself
under cover, took care not to lose sight of him. Thus it was
that Father Oswald became an unintentional spectator of the
strictly private scene above recorded.

VL—WHAT FATHER OSWALD SAW AT HOME.

ae story of Mistress Alice’s adventure, and of her rescue by
Giles Burston, was soon known to all at Melcomb, but the
further result of that adventure was not known; for Sir John
Bigod, although he altogether despised such a rival as the

a





ee Ee Oe: saw at Home. 22

ne saw Ae some aeedea measures for his ee would
be necessary, and was not likely to babble of a secret which so
nearly concerned himself, and which he imagined to be unknown
to any fourth person.

Father Oswald also kept his own counsel upon this point,
and indeed upon all that he had seen in Melcomb Wood. When
the story of the abduction was told to the wary priest, he said
nothing, but could not for a moment doubt in his own mind that
the three men in Kendal-green whom he had seen were the
offenders, or that they were acting under Sir John Bigod’s orders
And here it must be admitted that his acuteness carried him
somewhat too far, for being ignorant of the intended rescue, he
concluded that the knight's ‘designs with regard to Mistress Alice
were of the blackest nature possible, and accordingly resolved to
use proportionate vigilance in thwarting them. To some extent

this determination, and the necessity which it imposed upon him
of not weakening his position by showing his antagonist the
extent of his discoveries, kept him silent with regard to what he
had witnessed of the love scene.

There was, indeed, at first some conflict in his mind as to
whether he were not bound to drop some hint to the old lord of
Melcomb as to the danger his daughter incurred of forming an
unsuitable attachment. But there were arguments on the other
side. He liked the youth, and had some fellow-feeling for his
wandering and friendless condition; and without more certain
information, it would, he thought, be hard to deprive him of a
home anda patron. Under any circumstances, it would be well
to sound Burston, and learn how far the affair had actually
proceeded, before taking further steps. We shall see that Father
Oswald’s researches in this direction led to far other discoveries
than those which he had anticipated.

It will be remembered that when Giles Burston first presented
himself at Melcomb, his features had recalled some familiar face
to the remembrance of both the knight and the priest. Since
that time this resemblance had often occurred to Father Oswald’s
thoughts, but no clue had as yet presented itself by which he
could unravel the mystery. That clue was now to be supplied.









24 Mistress Alice Massenger.



It was in the afternoon of the day following that of the
adventure, and whilst the old esquire was taking his ordinary
after-dinner nap, that Father Oswald made up his mind to have
a little private talk with Giles Burston. The young man had
some time since left the hall to attend to his duties at the
falconry, and thither the holy father prepared to follow him. As
he passed down the hall for that purpose, he observed that the
falconer had by chance left his hunting-knife at his place at the
table, for in those days each man brought his own knife to the
board. “A fair excuse,” thought the priest; “I carry his whittle
to the flyer of hawks, and therewith begin me my dialogue.”

Father Oswald took up the knife. It was of rich and curious
workmanship—the haft, which was of silver, being fantastically
wrought into the figure of a wyvern. As he went on his way
and examined it, old associations connected with the heraldic
device entered his memory, and the image of one long since
known and numbered with the dead—one whose crest was the
wyvern, and whose features wore the expression that had per-
plexed him in Giles Burston—rose before his eyes. “It is
strange,” said Father Oswald to himself, as he crossed the stone
courtyard, “that I should not have thought of this before ; truly,
now, I shall not need to ask with Saul, King of Jewry, ‘Whose
son is this stripling ?’” .

It may be that the first idea of the priest was at once to open
his surmises to, and seek for a confirmation of them at the lips of
the falconer; but if such was the case, a moment’s reflection fixed
his determination to act with caution, and to do nothing as yet
which would compel him to make a confidant of the youth. He
therefore contented himself with putting a few subtle questions,
the drift of which was not perceptible, and the answers he
received were such as to convince him that his conjectures were
well founded; nor did he fail, though that now appeared a
secondary matter in his eyes, to worm out the exact position of
Burston’s affairs with Alice Massenger. Before leaving the
falconry, he drew forth the knife, and handed it to Giles Burston,
saying, “ Take this device, and if thou shouldst meet with the
son of the good knight who bore it at Boroughbridge, bid him









Tactics. 25

remember and observe the motto that goes therewith, whereof
the first word is, ‘Silentio!’ and chiefly let him remember this,
and hide well his whittle, when he standeth before Sir John
Bigod.”
. The young falconer showed that he understood the hint, by
asking for no explanation; and from that hour he found that he
had a warm friend and a zealous partisan in Father Oswald.

Vile ACInieSs

re spite of the various under-currents which we have been
tracing, the stream of life at Melcomb Manor continued to
wear upon its surface precisely the same appearance that it had
worn previously. In outward bearing the different members of
the family were the same to each other as before, and the visits of
Sir John Bigod still continued to furnish the same satisfaction to
Hugh Massenger, and the same opposite sensation to Mistress
Alice. A change was, however, now drawing near at hand.

About this time the intelligence brought to Sir John Bigod
from the Marches began to be of a nature which left him little
prospect of remaining long at Hilworth. New disturbances
among the Welsh were imminent, and he began to prepare
for that summons which he saw must shortly recall him to
his post.

Among other matters, he hastened to mature his plans for the
removal of Giles Burston. Although in the falconer’s conduct
towards Mistress Alice Massenger he had seen that which was
gall and wormwood to him, he had, at the time, passed it over in
contemptuous silence; it was not for him to waste words on such
a rival, but to crush him when opportunity should offer. Under
other circumstances, Sir John might have waited patiently for
such an occasion; but now, when he might any day be called
from the neighbourhood, he must make sure that his rival would
not be left behind him. He therefore took advantage of the first
chance of private conversation with Hugh Massenger which













26 Mistress Alice Massenger.

occurred to point out to him the dangers of retaining such a
person as Burston in his household; but the old esquire had
taken kindly to his falconer, and had conceived no light opinion
of his services in the wood; he was not, therefore, easily to be
persuaded.

“Nay, nay,” he said; “the youth is a good youth, and is, as
one may well see, of gentle breeding. It were a shame to me
if I should drive him from my doors.”

“ As to his gentle breeding,” replied the knight, “if all I hear
be true, it will go for but little. I had in mine own mind a
thought that I must have seen this youth before he came hither ;
and one of my fellows avers that he is neither more nor less than
the son of old Bustin, the vintner, at Warwick. His fine airs
have doubtless been learnt from the gallants of the earl’s
following, who frequent his father’s house; and now he must
needs try to pass himself for a gentleman under disguise, with
the hope, it may be, to carry off a lady of lands. Have a care,
then, Master Massenger, and clip this tiercelet’s wing before he
have time to strike the quarry.”

The old lord of Melcomb had too high a respect for his
powerful neighbour to question his words,.even though they
were given on no better authority than the assertion of one of
his own serving-men. Yet his liking for Burston, and his
unwillingness to act unjustly towards him, were not easily to be
overcome. “Nay, nay,” he said; “the youth is a good youth,
and hath done good service; he must not be turned forth into
the world till his fault be proven against him.”

“True,” replied the knight; “nor would I, upon no better
cause than suspicion, counsel you to do him injury; though you
must needs look to the peace of your own house, and it may be
that you will best advance the youth’s own fortunes at the same
time. By your tenure, you must furnish one man-at-arms to
serve in the Marches; and since Peter Coulter had his skull
cracked at Hereford fair with a black-jack, by Morgan-ap-Rhys,
for calling ‘leeks good meat for goslings, we have had none.
Send this gay tapster with me. If he have manhood in him, he
will gladly go to the wars, and I shall see that he lacks no







A Parting... 27



advancement befitting his birth; if he be craven, and fear blows,
bid him, since he loves it, go in peace.”

These words of Sir John Bigod bore so much the appearance
of reason and genuine friendship, that Hugh Massenger had
nothing to oppose to them, and so was obliged, reluctantly, to
assent to the knight’s proposal. Nor did Burston, when his
master’s wishes were made known to him, see any way by which
he could avoid the proffered employment. To a high-spirited
youth there was, of course, in itself nothing distasteful in the
prospect of a few months of border warfare. But Melcomb
Manor had now become to him the dearest spot upon earth, and
to leave it and Alice Massenger would be the greatest of evils ;
and besides this, he had reasons for doubting whether the feelings
of the man who was now to be his superior could be altogether
those of kindness towards him.

If Giles Burston was inclined to question the motives which
had induced Sir John Bigod to take him under his protection,
there was one other among the inhabitants of Melcomb who did
not hesitate at once to ascribe the knight’s proceedings to some
plan of jealousy or revenge, and that man was Father Oswald.
Yet of so peace-loving a disposition was this exemplary priest,
that he did not allow his suspicions in any way to interrupt his
friendly intercourse with the knight; on the contrary, from this
very time he was observed to affect his society still more
sedulously than formerly. Nevertheless, it was with some
surprise that the household learnt, a fortnight later, that Father
Oswald had pledged himself to accompany Sir John Bigod and
his troop in the double capacity of chaplain and secretary.

VUI.—A PARTING.

ae departure of Sir John Bigod was more hurried than had
been anticipated. Several days earlier than the time at
which he had been expected to set out for the Welsh Marches,
there came a messenger in all haste from Earl Fitz-Turold, with









28 Mistress Alice Massenger.



the information that Howel Goch was known to be already at the
head of a considerable army, and that Sir John was at once required
to take charge of the defence of Turvey Castle, as it was prob-
able that that important post would form an early object of attack.

To Giles Burston, who had looked forward to many more
days during which he might still be near Mistress Alice, the
news that he must on the morrow be ready to leave Melcomb
was anything but pleasing. His few preparations were soon
made; and then, as the twilight drew on, he strolled forth to
take what seemed to him, in his present frame of mind, to be a
last look at the environs of a place which had become so dear to
him, and to indulge in the gloomy thoughts which he could not
overcome. He had not as yet found means of petitioning for a
last interview with Alice; and though he knew that she must be
well aware of his approaching departure, he did not dare to hope
that she would grant him such an interview unasked.

He visited the falconry, and gave his farewell caresses to the
noble birds, which must henceforward be cared for by others ;
and then, finding himself impelled by the recollections of his first
coming to Melcomb, he turned his steps towards the hedges of
clipped yew which bounded the pleasaunce. As he paced
beneath their dark shadows, which harmonised so well with his
own sense of present sorrow and his forebodings of future evil,
he was startled by a step behind him; he turned, and found
himself face to face with Father Oswald.

It was almost in expectation of a reproof for straying to a
spot where he might well be suspected of hoping to meet with
Mistress Alice, that Burston encountered the worthy father; but
he had no grounds for such an apprehension. “ My son,” said
the friendly confessor, “I have been seeking for you. I have
thought much on your welfare, and deem it unfitting that you
should leave this place without first bidding farewell to Mistress
Alice Massenger ; and to the end that you may do so without
hindrance, I have prevailed upon her that she will, under my
guidance, come to the pleasaunce, by the time that the moon is
above the tops of yonder trees.”

As Father Oswald said this, he pointed to the moon, which











_ A Parting. 29

was already shining through the great elms which crowned the
banks to the eastward; and without waiting for the falconer’s
thanks, he turned back towards the house. ;

Burston opened the wicket, and stood within the sacred
precincts of the pleasaunce. For the moment, it seemed that all
his troubles had passed away; and the pleasure caused by
Father Oswald’s intelligence was too fresh in his mind to allow
him to think the moon slow in climbing into the open sky.
Before she had well done so, the small door in the angle of the
gable was heard to open and close again, and Father Oswald
and his charge entered the garden. ;

Between the spot where Giles Burston awaited his mistress
and the house, grew an apple-tree. Beneath this, and placing
his back to its bole, the discreet churchman stationed himself, -
and appeared at once to be absorbed in the contemplation of the
heavenly bodies. The meeting of the lovers was, therefore,
almost as much unrestrained as if even this friendly witness had
. not been present.

Upon Giles Burston’s melancholy the announcement of
Father Oswald had fallen like a burst of sunlight, but the delight
which he had anticipated from the meeting was scarcely destined
to be realised; for from the first moment of their interview he
could not but see that a still deeper gloom had overshadowed the
mind of his mistress than that which had possessed his own. It
was in vain that, whilst he tried to stifle his own forebodings, the
young man urged that had Sir John formed any serious plan
of revenge, he would scarcely have taken another member of the
Melcomb household—Father Oswald—to the scene where it was
to be carried out.

Mistress Alice shook her head. ‘“ Father Oswald,” she said,
“has taken good care to hide from the knight any love that he
may bear towards you; nay, rather, he has made him believe that
he hates you, or he would never have ridden upon this journey
with Sir John’s good-will.”

“Nay, sweet Mistress Alice, but I mistrust me that your
gentle fears on my behalf make you wrong Sir John Bigod in
your thoughts.”







30 Mistress Alice Massenger.



“I would it were so,” answered Alice; “ yet in this I speak
not of my own judgment, but after the wiser counsel of Father
Oswald. He who is most subtle in knowing men’s thoughts, is
satisfied that there is evil determined against you. Had he
thought otherwise, he would not have wrought upon Sir John to
take him in his company.”

These words showed much to Giles Burston of which he had
before no suspicion. “Can it be, then,” he asked, “that care for
the safety of a simple man-at-arms, such as I am, is the cause of
Father Oswald’s going to the wars ?”

A faint smile passed over the anxious face of Alice Massenger.
“ However lightly,” she said, “you may yourself account your
own welfare, there are, as you see, those who hold it of some
worth. Our good father leaves Melcomb for no other cause
than that he may watch over your life and well-being.”

“Till now,” said Burston, “I had thought that Father Oswald
went on this journey for pure love that he bore to Sir John
Bigod’s fellowship. Know you the cause why he undertakes so
much labour for my sake ?”

“T know not,” replied the lady; “but this I know, that when
one such as he is so regards your life, you should yourself take
good heed to it as a thing of worth; and doubt not but that by
one other that wishes you well there shall ever be prayer made
for your deliverance, alike from the open enemy, and from the
traitor who smites unseen.”

Burston clasped the hand of his mistress. “ Fear not,” he
said, “but that against craft I shall ever be wary, and that as to
fair blows, my arm can well keep my head ;” and then, in a lower
tone, he continued, “and, truth to tell, sweet Mistress Alice, it
would be greater solace to me, when we are far asunder, could |
know that so true a friend as Father Oswald were watching over
your safety, instead of caring for mine.”

“You speak from the gentleness of your heart,” answered she,
“and I can well believe your words; but Father Oswald is wise,
and knows what is best. When one man whom we know of is
away, I stand in no peril here at Melcomb, whilst you will have
much to dread. I would fain hope that all will be well; and yet









Danger.

3!

a great fear has laid hold on me, that here, where we first met,
we may also have met for the last time.”

Alice’s voice trembled as she uttered these words, and before
her lover could reply, Father Oswald gave an admonitory cough,
to warn the young couple that it was now time the interview
came to an end. At that moment a cloud opportunely
passed over the moon, and before she again shone out clearly,
the farewell had been taken, Burston had left: the pleasaunce,
and Alice Massenger, with Father Oswald, had re-entered the
house. :

At early dawn the ex-falconer set forth to join Sir John
Bigod’s troop, and before evening he and his comrades were far
away to the west. The spare horses and baggage followed more
slowly a few hours later; and with these, as their pace better
befitted his clerical character, travelled Father Oswald. Many
words of comfort did the worthy priest speak to Mistress Alice
before he went, with promises of intelligence whenever occasion
might offer; and that he might the better have it in his power to
send her some tidings, he carried among his worldly goods
certain of her doves. “For these posts,” he said, “be more
worthy of trust than are men, who have legs to linger, and
tongues to babble withal.”

IX.—DANGER.

aaa hasty ride across a country as yet unknown to him, and
the novelty of a soldier's life, soon wore away much of the
sorrow which Giles Burston had felt at leaving Melcomb, as well
as his apprehension of coming villany; so that in a little while
he began to look forward with some pleasure to the stirring
scenes in which he hoped shortly to be engaged.

Yet when Turvey Castle had been reached, and when, day
after day, no active enterprise was undertaken, he found life in
garrison to be, what the ardent youth of all ages have found it, of
all others perhaps the most tedious. As yet, Sir John Bigod’s









duty was only to keep this post against the enemy, of whom a
large force, under Howel himself, was not far distant. Fitz-
Turold, who had been engaged against the Welshmen further
to the south, was now said to be drawing near, and when he
came there was good hope of action and hard blows; as yet,
however, there was only the wearisome duty of keeping watch
and ward.

Father Oswald arrived at the castle some days later than
Burston, but he appeared to shun intercourse with the young
man-at-arms, if it were possible, even more carefully than at
Melcomb. Burston would gladly have talked with him, and
asked him concerning many things ; he was curious to know what
motive could have induced the priest to take so deep an interest
in himself, and he naturally desired to ascertain whether the
astute churchman’s watchfulness had enabled him to fathom any
revengeful project on the part of Sir John; but he rightly con-
cluded that Father Oswald’s conduct was adopted from motives
of policy, and that he should best aid his plans by avoiding him
as much as possible.

On one occassion only did the priest beckon him into the
little turret-chamber, which he called his own, that he might
speak to him a few words in private. Apparently his chief
object was to charge the youth, in case any extraordinary orders
were given him; and more especially, if he received directions
to leave the castle upon any solitary commission, at once to
make the matter known to himself. Burston gave the required
promise, and was proceeding to ask for further information, when
Father Oswald briefly answered that there was treachery afoot,
and that in order to defeat it, watchfulness and silence would
be necessary.

Not many days later than this interview, Giles Burston was
summoned into the presence of Sir John Bigod. The knight’s
words and manner seemed intended to convince the youth that he
wished only to be considered by him as his good friend and patron.
He had, he said, received from his neighbour, Master Hugh
Massenger, such high commendations of his retainer, that he
desired to give him good employment on such services as might







Danger.

lead to notice and promotion. “For this reason,” he continued,
“together with the opinion I have myself formed of you, you
have been chosen to carry my answer to Howel Goch, concerning
certain exchanges of prisoners, and other matters now in treaty
between us.”

To this flattering speech Burston only bowed.

“Two archers,” resumed the knight, “to whom the country
is well known, shall see you as far as the nearest outposts of the
rebels, and thence you will have safe conduct to their chief, to
whom you will bear a packet. Observe all that you may, and
meddle in no man’s business; as to your homeward journey,
Howel will himself take charge for it.”

As Sir John uttered the last words, there was, to Burston’s
ears, a touch of irony in his tone; but this, he said to himself,
might be but fancy. However, having received his packet, he
made it his first business to search for Father Oswald, that he
might acquaint him with what he had heard; and it was then he
first learnt that the father had that morning set out for a neigh-
bouring garrison, and would not return till sunset.

Burston was not a little disconcerted by this discovery, and
had it been possible, he would not have set forth upon his mission
till the father’s return; but Sir John’s orders were peremptory,
and required his instant departure; he had therefore no choice but
to obey. The two men who accompanied him were rough, plain
soldiers, who had long been stationed in the castle; and from
their looks, Burston deemed it well to be upon his guard against
any treachery on their part. This caution was needless, for they
had less of the ruffian in their hearts than in their faces, and
brought him safely enough across that valley, so rich by nature,
but now so impoverished by the harsh policy of the Lords
Marchers, which lies to the west of Turvey Castle.

Beside the river by which that valley is divided, they bade
him “ God-speed,” and turned back on their homeward journey.
The roadway leading to the water’s edge on each side showed
that the stream might be forded at this point; and beneath a
clump of trees on the opposite bank, a number of armed men
were loitering, or lay stretched on the grass, having evidently











34 Mistress Alice Massenger.



been posted to defend or watch the passage. Breaking down a
green branch, and waving it above his head, Burston rode into
the ford; and as he did so, two of the Welshmen moved down
to the brink to receive him when he should reach the farther
side.

Brought by these men before the officer who commanded
their party, Burston, with much difficulty, owing to the Welsh
gentleman’s small knowledge of English, gave him to understand
his errand. Some refreshment was then offered, which, to the
eye of the young envoy, reflected no great lustre upon either the
hospitality or the resources of his hosts; after which, he was sent
forward with an escort to the camp of Howel Goch.

It was near nightfall when he reached the head-quarters of
the Welsh leader. The half-ruined castle of Llancoity, in which
that chief had for the time being established himself, had been
built in former days, in imitation and rivalry of those of the
Norman invaders, by an ancestor of Howel Goch. From it that
warlike prince of old times had led many a foray into the Lords
Marchers’ territories; and a large tree, known to the English as
the “Gallows-oak,” which stood at no great distance from the
principal entrance, was famous as the place at which he was
wont to execute every Englishman who was so unlucky as to fall
into his hands. Since those days the castle had at one time
been occupied, at another dismantled by the English; whilst
the descendants of its founder had been driven from the fruitful
district in which it was seated, to their more sterile possessions
among the mountains. If Howel Goch emulated the spirit and
deeds of his ancestors, he was, perhaps, not wholly inexcusable.

Burston’s interview with this formidable chieftain was short,
but to the point. The Welsh leader read quickly through the
packet which was delivered to him, and then addressed the
bearer in English, in some such words as these—‘“I am here
assured by the valiant knight, Sir John Bigod, that he has, at my
request, set at liberty his prisoner, my kinsman, Evan ap
Griffith ; and in return, I am to give to the bringer of the news
such a horse as will bear him safely to his journey’s end. Now,
look you I am an honourable man, and shall keep my terms,











News from the Marches. 35

and so soon as I have certain knowledge that my kinsman has
reached his own people, you shall mount yonder steed ;” and he
pointed to the “Gallows-oak.” “It is a trusty one, that hath
carried a hundred riders as good as thou art, and failed none of
them ere he reached his journey’s end.”

Before Burston had time to expostulate, he found himself
disarmed, bound, and dragged from the spot. That night, his
lodging was in a secure, but somewhat dark and uncomfortable
dungeon, beneath the chief tower of Llancoity.

To all appearance, Bigod had taken effectual means of ridding
himself of his rival. Wholly cut off from friends and country-
men, and a doomed prisoner among a people, who, according to
their own ancient saying, “loved hanging an Englishman more
than their chief national dainty,” Burston’s plight was indeed a
forlorn one.

X.—NEWS FROM THE MARCHES,

ISTRESS ALICE MASSENGER had, as we have seen,

been accustomed in her earlier days to a somewhat quiet

and uneventful life at Melcomb; but till now she had never felt

the dreariness of it. Week after week passed, and still there was

no news of her lover; whilst the knowledge of the more than

common perils to which he was exposed, was a constant source
of alarm to her.

At last there came a rumour—bruited about among the
dependants at Melcomb, and said to have been derived from
Hilworth—that Burston the falconer had been taken and hanged
by the Welsh. This story, as it was brought by one of her
maidens to Mistress Alice, was duly garnished with certain
horrible particulars, after the usual manner of such reports; such
as that the dead body-had been cruelly mutilated, and the like.
Alice knew not how much of this rumour to believe; and the
good old esquire, when it was told to him, showed himself so
much troubled, as to make it plain that he still kept his partiality







36 Mistress Alice Massenger.

for his former favourite; indeed, he needed but little inciting on
the part of his daughter to induce him to search out the source
of the tale. It was found to have been spread by a sick follower
of Bigod’s, who had returned to his home.

This man was brought to Melcomb, but he could give no
certain information in the matter. He had heard that Burston
had been sent on some errand to the rebel camp; and he knew
that the day on which he had himself left for Hilworth, it was
the common talk of the garrison of Turvey Castle that the young
man had been hanged. As to mutilation, the Welsh had ever
behaved to the dead in such a manner as was a shame for any
Christians to use, and it was like enough that Burston might
have been so treated by them. This was all he could tell about
the affair.

If there was much ground for fear, there was still some room
for hope from this man’s tidings, and this Alice Massenger often
repeated to herself, as she watched in her mother’s chamber, or
walked in her pleasaunce; and yet she had so much looked for
some such intelligence as this, that now, when it was actually
come, she scarcely doubted of its truth. If she had before had
little heart for her accustomed employments, she had still less
now ; through her round of daily duties she went as a matter of
habit, but it was in vain that she tried to arouse herself to an
interest in her old pleasures.

Yet for one of her old delights she still cared, and that was
for her doves; for it was through them that she looked for the
one thing she most desired, namely, for news from the Marches.
Each day, as she fed her pretty flock, she looked for the well-
remembered plumage of those which Father Oswald had
carried away, and as she watched their fellows, longed for their
return.

A week had wellnigh passed since the rumour of Giles
Burston’s death had reached Melcomb, and then, at last, one of
the looked-for messengers came. The weary creature found its
mistress at the accustomed spot, and alighted, tired out, upon
her shoulder. Scarcely giving herself time to caress it, she
untied, with trembling hands, the packet which it carried round





The Hour of Need. 37

itsneck. (See Frontispiece.) The writing was in the well-known
hand of Father Oswald, and as Alice hastily read it, she burst
into tears.

Whether her tears were those of sorrow or of joy, or whether
in them she merely gave vent to overwrought feelings, we must
not at this point of the story stay to enquire; before doing so, it
will be necessary to return to Giles Burston, whom we left
awaiting his execution in the dungeon of Llancoity.

XI.—THE HOUR OF NEED.

LTHOUGH in the lodgings to which the hospitality of

Howel Goch had consigned him the changes of day and
night were not over perceptible, Burston was aware that noontide
of the third day was drawing near, when he was summoned
forth by his jailer. That official, who had probably been chosen
for his post for his knowledge of English, was genial and
talkative. ‘The young gentleman, Evan ap Griffith,” he said,
“had returned safe and sound to his kinsman, and so highly
praised the usage he had had of Sir John Bigod, that Howel
Goch, who loved to be behind no man in courtesy, desired to
show his sense of the English captain’s kindness by hanging his
man at once.”

Burston was accordingly hurried out of the castle, and towards
the fatal tree, by a guard of Welsh soldiers, to whom any remon-
strances, had he addressed them, would have been unintelligible :
near to the oak, however, stood an officer who appeared to have
charge of the whole proceeding, and to him the doomed man
made such an appeal as he might for his life. He pleaded his
inviolable character as an envoy; and urged that, though an
inferior officer like Bigod might consent to his death, it would
certainly be avenged by his commander, the just and powerful
Earl Fitz-Turold. Burston besought the officer to represent this
to Howel, but the Welshman only shook his head. “If your
earl,” he said, “takes vengeance for every Englishman hanged









38 Mistress Alice Massenger.



by our chief, he will have enough to do; and one more or less
will matter but little. You will have no mercy from Howel
Goch; and therefore, young Saxon, you will do well to address
your prayers elsewhere, and prepare to die.”

“ At least, then,” said Burston,. “ you will grant mea priest ?”

“ Ay, truly,” answered the Welshman, “if there be one at
hand who can speak your tongue; but this gentleman” (pointing
to the soldier who was adjusting the rope) “must not be kept
waiting for all the priests in Christendom.”

A considerable group of lookers-on had gathered round the
party who guarded the prisoner. ‘The Englishman is in luck,”
observed one of them; “for here comes a priest of his own -
nation.”

Burston turned his eyes in the direction indicated, and the
sight which met them at once gave him some glimmering of
hope: a man was approaching, clad in the clerical habit, who
appeared to be somewhat aged, as he walked slowly, and leant
upon a staff; but in this figure the keen eye of Giles Burston
detected none other than Father Oswald. The priest no sooner
joined the concourse of idlers, than he was pushed forward to
shrive the condemned man.

The father looked round the group apparently in some
astonishment; and then, addressing himself to the Welshman in
command, inquired whether it were that officer's pleasure that he
should do his function. Being answered in the affirmative, he
requested that the nearest soldiers might stand back a little;
“for,” said he, “ Holy Church ordains not that any should hear a
shrift save the confessor and the confessed.” As the prisoner’s
escape was apparently out of the question, the Welshmen at once
fell back. ‘Kneel, my son, kneel,” said Father Oswald; and
Burston fell upon his knees.

“Be of good courage, my son,” proceeded the father, in a
low tone; “fear nothing, for help is at hand. We have but to
keep these Welsh wolves quiet whilst a good horseman may ride
a league; and then Fitz-Turold’s lances shall teach them to
howl toa proper tune. But now thou art in great peril of death,
and must confess; yet do not overlook any of thy lesser sins









Revelations. 39

through overmuch haste, for we have time for a long shrift ere
our riders can be here; and till they come it must not be
finished.”

Much in this spirit did Father Oswald proceed with his office,
and went through the prescribed forms with so much deliberation
as to draw murmurs from many of the lookers-on, and some
impatient words from the officer. But Father Oswald was not
to be put down. ‘My son,” he said to the latter, “grudge not
his last moments to a dying man, for who can tell how near thine
own end may be.”

And in truth the Welshman stood more nearly to death than
he supposed; for at this instant the trampling of hoofs was
heard, arms flashed in the sunlight, and some fifty horsemen
came sweeping from behind the neighbouring covert in full
career. Father Oswald seized the first moment of surprise to cut
Burston’s cords, and then laid about him lustily with his staff—a
proceeding which his penitent seconded with the first weapon
that came to his hand. The few Welshmen who stood on their
defence were at once borne down by Fitz-Turold’s lances; and
almost in less time than the scene has taken to describe, the
priest and Burston were mounted behind two of the horsemen,
and the whole party was in full retreat from Llancoity, at a pace
which rendered pursuit on the part of the illmounted Welsh
little better than hopeless.

XII.—REVELATIONS,

N the banks of the same stream which our young envoy had
crossed three days previously, but at a point somewhat more

to the south, he now saw with surprise, in the first pause of his
flight, that a considerable army was encamped. Fitz-Turold had
taken up a position there over-night, and was preparing to attack
Howel Goch on the morrow. It was not till the shelter of this
camp had been gained that Burston was able to express his
gratitude to Father Oswald for the rescue in which he had taken







40 Mistress Alice Massenger.



the chief part, and to inquire by what means he had been enabled
to come so opportunely to his aid. _

“The story is a long one,” replied the priest; “but as we
can now talk without the fear of Sir John Bigod before our eyes,
I may tell it from beginning to end. Shortly then, my son, I
had for many days past known of the knight’s design against
you; but he had given me to believe that he would not so soon
have carried it out. I desired his treason against you to come
to full bloom, that it might work his own punishment, but I
meant it not to bear fruit; and indeed I had determined in my
own mind that you should carry the letter given you for Howel
Goch to Fitz-Turold, with another of mine own inditing, in which
this treachery should have been made known to the earl.”

“But in this,” said Burston, “you failed through not being
at Turvey Castle when I departed.”

“Even so; and this was through Bigod’s craft. Now when
I returned, and found you gone, and knew well upon what errand,
I was sore troubled; but I took counsel with myself, and got
away as secretly as might be, and came with all speed to the
earl, to whom I disclosed the whole matter.”

“ But,” asked Burston, “would the Lord Marcher willingly
lend an ear to aught against so famous a captain as Sir John
Bigod ?”

“Gilbert Fitz-Turold,” answered Father Oswald, “knows
me well. He loved my Lord of Lancaster, and was deep in his
schemes for freeing England of the Despensers, though none had
knowledge of it save my lord and a certain clerk that penned
many weighty and secret things at his bidding. I was that
clerk; and if I had been so minded, Fitz-Turold’s head had
made my peace with the king. Therefore the earl may well
trust me. Now, when I told him how the son of the good
knight, Sir Henry Brent

“Tt is as I thought, then,” broke in the young man; “you
knew my father ?”

The priest smiled, and continued, “ When I told him how the
son of a good knight, remembered by him of old, had been
betrayed to death among these barbarians, the earl swore by St.









Revelations. AI

Kenelm that Bigod should answer for it, though he were the best
knight in the Marches, and that he would have you from among
the Welsh if it cost him his earldom. I was for sending
peaceably to Howel. to demand you; but the earl, who knew his
man, answered that if I cared to have your head without the
body, the act would be a wise one, for we should assuredly get it
for so doing.

“From that which I have seen of Howel Goch,” said Giles
Burston—or rather, as he must now be called, Giles Brent—“ I
am much of the earl’s opinion.”

“So instead,” proceeded Father Oswald, “he led on his forces
with all speed to this place; and when our spies brought word
as to how and where you were to be hanged, he sent fifty of his
best lances to bring you off. I could not be idle in the business,
and being a man of peace, I could pass openly; so whilst our
friends went far about, to draw near to Llancoity under covert, I
came as quickly as I might, to keep the Welshmen in play till
the proper time; and, thanks to the slovenly watch kept by the
enemy, all went well.”

“And now,” said Brent, “I must needs ask you of another
matter. For what cause is it that you care so deeply for my
welfare, and that you have been ready to save my life at the
peril of your own ?”

“Truly, my son,” answered the priest, “you had good right
to have known this before; but I have hidden it, and have made
myself as a stranger to you, that I might the better blind the
eyes of Sir John Bigod. Know then, Giles Brent, that your
father did me much kindness in old days, and brought me to the
notice of his good lord and mine, the Earl of Lancaster, of whom
I had fair preferment, and should have had better, but for the
evil chance of Boroughbridge, which cost me a noble master and
my hopes, and thee thy father and thy lands.”

“Whatever kindness my father may have done,” said the
young man, “it has been nobly repaid to his child; but tell me,
now, why did you desire that my name should be so carefully

hidden from Bigod ?”
“There was old enmity between him and thy father, and









42 Mistress Alice Massenger.



therefore I warned thee. But enough of these matters, for I
must now bring thee to the presence of the Lord Marcher, who
will doubtless give thee fair occasion to-morrow, when he goeth
forth against these Welshmen, to prove thyself thy father’s son.”

XIII. SUNSHINE.

a was four days after the above conversation took place that
’ the winged post was despatched to Alice Massenger, for it
was not till that time that Father Oswald returned to Turvey
Castle; and of the events which took place in the interim, we
can best gain a knowledge by referring to the letter which the
good father indited for her benefit.

After assuring Alice of her lover’s safety, and briefly telling
her of his imprisonment and rescue, the missive proceeded some-
what in this strain :—“ Afterward the Earl Fitz-Turold made war
on this same Howel Goch, and took his fenced castle, Llancoity
by name. There were, as I hear, many good deeds of arms
done; and amongst others, the young esquire, Giles Brent, who
was sometime called Burston, hath done valiantly. Neverthe-
less, Howel and his rabblement have for this time escaped us.
And now I have that to tell which will touch thee nearly. When
our soldiers drew near to take the castle, and came to a tree
thereby, where execution was wont to be done, they found
hanging on it the carcass of Sir John Bigod, whose death fell out
in this manner. Word being brought him that the earl had
sworn to send him a prisoner to the king, he forthwith fled to
Llancoity, hoping there to have found good shelter; but, as it
would seem (whether from the rarity of the thing, I know not),
the having of an English knight in his hands is too sore a
temptation to a Welshman to be withstood, and this Howel Goch
incontinently hanged him.”

To say that Alice Massenger rejoiced over the fall of Sir
John Bigod would be to do her wrong; yet we may hope that
the pity she felt for his unknightly fate was counterbalanced by





Sunshine. 43



joy for her lover's safety ; certain it is, that though she had still
the chances of war to fear, after she had received this letter her
dejection did not return.

Yet she had long to wait; and most part of the summer had
gone by before the Welsh war was brought to its close. News of
the final overthrow of Howel Goch was at last carried to Melcomb
by a messenger of Earl Fitz-Turold’s, who announced that his
lord was now on his way to the king, and proposed to halt for a
short space at Melcomb, as he desired to speak on certain
matters of business with Master Massenger.

The arrival of such a guest as the Lord Marcher was no
small event at Melcomb Manor; but by Alice it was chiefly
valued on account of two persons who came in the earl’s train,
one of whom was Giles Brent, and the other Father Oswald.
Fitz-Turold soon opened the real purpose of his visit. It was
to commend to Master Massenger, as a suitor for his daughter’s
hand, the young esquire, Giles Brent, son of his sometime friend,
the good knight, Sir Henry Brent. The youth, said the Lord
Marcher, was the worthy son of a worthy sire, and had so far
shown himself able and valiant in the late war, that he should
himself look to his future preferment, and should make suit to
the king for restoration of the forfeited lands of his father.

Doubtless, since he used such arguments, the earl was a
pleader well fitted to gain his end; but whether his praises and
promises, or the ancient esquire’s partiality for his former favourite,
most prevailed, I know not; certain it is, however, that before
he rode on his way the old lord of Melcomb had given his consent
to the union, and all things had been arranged as Father Oswald
suggested, and as Giles Brent and Mistress Alice Massenger
most desired.















DN Bee OG We)



= 72) N this history of Mistress Alice Massenger I have shown
in what manner the Brents came first to be lords of
Melcomb; for it is to this Giles, and Alice his wife,

Y— that we trace our descent. I do not find that the Earl
Fitz-Turold obtained restitution of the lands of Sir Henry
Brent, which had, it seems, been otherwise granted; but it is
recorded that instead of them he gained from the king a grant
of certain lands in Herefordshire, which were afterwards
exchanged for others adjoining to the Manor of Melcomb. So
that this Giles became a man of good estate and account, as is
made manifest from a patent under the hand of King Edward
the Third, empowering him to fortify his house at Melcomb, and
to empark certain lands there; of which last permission only he
would seem to have availed himself.

He left a numerous issue, both of sons and daughters; but
during the two next generations I meet with nothing worthy of
being made the subject of a special history; yet, touching the
life of Isabel, eldest daughter of Henry, grandson of the above
Giles Brent, certain matters are told, which have been handed
down as one of the most remarkable of our family traditions.

The Henry Brent spoken of had many children, of whom
Isabel was the eldest: she is said to have been a maiden of
great beauty, but to have been proud and nothing gentle in her
disposition. In his household also, in some part, was brought
up one Gilbert Brent, the son of a deceased kinsman of his, who













L[nterlogue I. 45

was but little younger than the above-named Isabel. This
youth, being but of slender patrimony and of quick parts, was
bred a scholar at Oxford, where his learning was, for his years,
much commended. It had been supposed that he would in due
time enter upon the priesthood; but about the time that he
attained to manhood he showed no desire towards this course of
life, and that for some cause not manifest to his kinsman,
choosing rather to betake himself to one of the Inns of Court.
As the ensuing history is narrated, his motives for doing so will
probably become known to the reader, as will also somewhat of
the course of his after life; for his story and that of his cousin
Isabel are closely but unhappily linked together.









THE GREEN HUNTSMAN.

-_— OTS SS TOSI 2
I.— AFLOAT.

O-MORROW, then, my clerkly kinsman, you will
leave us, and in this gay and wondrous London to
which you are going, you will forget the homely faces
of the homely folk at Melcomb.”

These words were spoken by Isabel Brent, as she leaned
backwards on the cushions of the boat in which her kinsman
Gilbert was rowing her, and as she glided among the lilies of
the smooth stream which flows past Melcomb Park.

“ Did I then forget you, or Melcomb, at Oxford ?” he asked.

“ At Oxford; oh no! Why should you? You could have
seen nothing there but books and boys. But in London, where
all the fairest ladies in the land gather round King Henry’s
court, you will find more weighty reasons for forgetting us.”

“Tt may be that the fair ladies of the Court will not often
meet the eyes of a poor scholar of Clement’s Inn; and yet, even
though I could win the favour of the greatest and brightest
there, none would be so fair, to my thoughts, as one face that |
had left behind me at Melcomb, Cousin Isabel.”

Gilbert Brent uttered these words with an air of great
seriousness, which only provoked a laugh from his companion.
“Were it not that all men do the same thing,” she said, “I
should have deemed that you scholars learned such pretty









Afloat. 47



speeches as this from your books, so ready are they at your
tongues’ ends, and so much are they alike. We maidens, Sir
Clerk, are weary of them; so prithee, gentle kinsman, leave these
idle conceits, and talk more wisely.”

“Cousin Isabel,” said the youth, suddenly resting on his
oars, “how long will you study to vex me thus? A hundred
times you have done it; you have led me on as though you
would have had me say everything that I longed to say, and then,
when you saw me about to speak, you have thrust me back with
some such jesting words as these; and hitherto your pleasure
has been law to me, and I have been silenced.”

There was an impetuosity, and a determination too, about
the young man’s manner, which was quite new to Isabel; yet
she answered nothing, but, looking over the side of the boat, let
one end of her green mantle fall almost to the water, and
professed to be amusing herself by seeing how nearly it might
approach the surface without touching it.

“Isabel,” he went on, “you bid me make no idle speeches,
and I will make none; what I have to say is in sober earnest,
and I will not be silenced.”

He paused, but Isabel made no reply; only, instead of
playing with her drapery, she now sat quite still, with her eyes
fixed upon her folded hands; so he spoke on.

“In your waywardness you have ever treated me as though
I had been only a thing to toy with, like your bracket or your
bird, and I have always worshipped you with some sort of awe,
and have been silent when you bade me; and yet, you must
know, Isabel Brent—you cannot but know it—that all this time
I have loved you with a deeper love than words can utter.”

Still she made no answer, either by word or sign, but sat
motionless, with clasped hands and downcast eyes. The young
scholar gazed eagerly on her as she sat there, with her head bent
forward, her eyes hidden by their long lashes, and her rich hair
moving gently in the light wind that. played along the stream,
and thought that there could be no beauty to compare with
hers.

“Tsabel,” he said, “it is long now since my love for you,











48 The Green Huntsman.



unspoken as it was, has been the constant thought and the one
motive of my life. It has made me thrust aside my earliest
hopes, and has changed the whole course of my career. With
your favour, I shall be strong, and do bravely in the world;
without it, I shall have no object, and shall waste my life. It is
with such a love that I regard you; and will you not then say
that you can give me some little love in return ?”

Gilbert spoke passionately, and many maidens in Isabel’s
place would have been moved, perhaps to tears. Isabel Brent,
however, did not weep, for she was not a damsel subject to that
weakness. It may be that she was touched, but she did not
show it; she only looked downwards as before, and was still
silent.

“To-morrow,” he continued, “I leave Melcomb to begin my
new life in London. I have told you all that my love is for you, all
that your love might be to me, and will you then drive me away
hopeless; for ail that I bear towards you will you give me no
love in return ?”

There was a slight pause, and then, raising her eyes till they
had almost, but not quite, reached the level of his own, she said,
in a low calm voice, “ Perhaps I may—a little.”

Had Gilbert been anywhere but in a boat, he would have
sprung up and thrown his arms round her; indeed, as it was, he
had almost upset the frail craft in the impulse to do so, before
he recollected himself, or could submit to take his happiness in
amore tranquil manner. True, Gilbert Brent was a man of no
* mean natural judgment, and he had seen enough of his cousin to
know that there was much in her disposition which was not
amiable; but what was that to him? Was she not, to his
thinking, the most beautiful of all living beings, and was not he
in love? Had she not favoured his suit, and had he not
therefore good right to be happy ?

It will be needless to recount all that passed between the-
cousins whilst the boat was slowly floating down the river
towards Melcomb. With a heart full of his new joy, Gilbert
said many things. Isabel spoke but few words; she was not
under the influence of so strong an emotion as that by which he









‘Tue Course oF Love.
How smooth these gentle waters are
Beneath the summers glow_
Alas, that Love, more gentle far,
smoothly may not flow!





MORE THAN KIN.













A Court Gallant. 51

was moved, yet the language of love and adoration made pleasant
music to her ears.

“It were well,” said Gilbert, as they left the boat—“ it were
well, sweetest cousin, that I should tell my kinsman of the troth
that has been plighted between us, ere I depart.”

“Nay,” answered Isabel, “it were better as yet that this
should be known to ourselves alone.”

IL—-A COURT GALLANT.

ON the morrow Gilbert Brent took leave of Melcomb; and as
XJ’ in those days, far more than in the present, a journey to or
from London was a matter of toil and danger, and not lightly to
be undertaken, many months must pass by before we shall
again see him at the home of his ancestors.

Meanwhile, at such rare opportunities as offered themselves,
he wrote letters to Mistress Isabel, in which, with many loving
words, he set forth his constancy towards her, and spoke with
much longing of the time when he should see her again. In
answer to these, Isabel at first sent other billets to the same
purpose, only more brief and ‘less warm; but after a time there
came a change, arising from certain causes of which I have now
to speak.

About the spring-time following that summer in which Gilbert
Brent had left Melcomb, there came to the neighbouring house
of Hilworth a young gallant, sister’s son to the then lord of that
place, and Piers Oversley by name. This young gentleman, who
might be some six-and-twenty years of age, was of comely
person; and having been from his youth engaged about the
court, he had the gay and chivalrous bearing which befitted his
breeding. - He gave out that he was wearied of the life of
pleasure which he had led, and that he desired to refresh himself
for a time in the quiet of his kinsman’s home: some, however,
there were ready to aver that he had taken part too freely in the
wild doings of Prince Henry, with his comrades, Sir John











52 The Green Hluntsman.

Falstaff and Master Poins; and that he came to Hilworth to be
for a time from under the eye of my Lord Chief-Justice, Sir
William Gascoigne.

He had not long been at Hilworth before he met with
Mistress Isabel Brent, and that through an adventure well
calculated to give him an interest and favour in her eyes.
Isabel, as we have seen, loved the river, and one day in the
May-time she desired to be rowed up the stream. Two of her
younger sisters, then but children, went with her, and their
attendant was Ralph Gurton, the ranger of the park—a man
whom she chose before all others, because to him and to his
wife Barbara, who had been her nurse, she was exceedingly
partial, and because they on their part were especially devoted
to her.

It was one of those warm and sunny days which so rarely
occur in May, but which, when they do come, are the most
delicious of the whole year. Scarcely a breeze stirred to ruffle
the water; the banks were gay with their fresh new green, and
bright with flowers; whilst the birds sang sweetly from every
bush and tree. Undoubtedly, as the boat passed point after point,
and glided along through windings of the stream unvisited by
her since the memorable day on which she had last been rowed
by her cousin Gilbert, Isabel’s thoughts reverted to him; yet, at
the same time, it may safely be affirmed that her lover occupied
a far less prominent place in her mind than the bright sunshine,
or the smiling landscape around her. Was it not natural that it
should be so? He had now been absent from her for many
months, and her kindly feelings towards him had never amounted
to anything like an absorbing passion, such as was his for her.

Close to the river's brink, upon the Hilworth side, stood a thick
clump of trees, and beneath them grew a mass of gaily-coloured
blossoms, which attracted the attention of the children. Isabel
desired Gurton to pull to the bank, that some of these flowers
might be gathered. The stout yeoman, to whom every wish of
his young mistress had the weight of law, at once obeyed; but
he did so in vain, for the coveted treasures were found to be still
beyond the reach of the impatient girls.









od

A Court Gallant. re

Determined that his young ladies should not be disappointed
of their wish, the ranger stepped on shore, and soon returned
with an abundance of posies; but in their haste to secure them,
at the moment he was again attempting to take his place in the
boat, his careless mistresses allowed it to slip from the bank, and
so plunged the unlucky Ralph in the water.

At the spot where this accident happened, Gurton might
easily have scrambled up the bank, had it occurred to him to
have done so; but unfortunately, in the confusion of the
moment, he retained his hold on the boat’s side, and was thus
carried away from the shore. However, he quickly recollected
himself, and seeing that his weight was in danger of causing the
craft to capsize, at last let it go; but he was now in deep water,
and in great peril of his life, and floundered helplessly in the
stream, to the no small alarm of Isabel and her little sisters.

Fortunately there was succour at hand. Before he had time
to become exhausted, a young and gallant-looking gentleman,
who, unseen by the occupants of the boat, had been walking
among the trees, strode quickly forward, and breaking down the
long, straight branch of a willow, flung its end to the sinking
man. Gurton grasped it, and Piers Oversley, for he it was,
without any apparent exertion or unwonted hurry, drew both
branch and man safely ashore.

Beyond imbibing more cold water than had passed his lips
for many a year past, the honest ranger was none the worse for
his bath, and Isabel steered the boat to the shore to take him
in. When she did so, the gallant, with a courteous air, expressed
his fears that after so narrow an escape her boatman might not
be able to fulfil his duties, and prayed her permission to take his
place; a proposal which Mistress Isabel at once declined, but at
the same time she thanked him warmly for the services he had
rendered. Ralph Gurton was not deficient in gratitude, but just
at the moment he had little spare wind for conversation.
Nevertheless, before the boat was finally shoved off, he found
voice to say to the gallant esquire, whose name and condition
were well known to him, “ Master Oversley, you have done a
right good service to a true yeoman, and be sure of this, that









54. The Green Fluntsman.



whenever the chance befalls, Ralph Gurton will not fail to do
you yeoman’s service in return.”

The ranger was not a man given to making rash promises,
but such promises as he made he was never known to break.



IIl.—-A NEW LOVE.

ep trate equipped with the fopperies of the age, though
%* not to excess—for he had much judgment in such light
matters—Master Piers Oversley presented himself next day at
Melcomb. He had ridden thither, he said, in the fear that
Mistress Isabel Brent and her sisters might have suffered by the
misadventure of yesterday, and had held it his devoir to make
enquiries with regard to them. I have said that on the fore-
going day he had made a favourable impression upon Isabel, and
assuredly that impression was increased and strengthened at this
their second meeting. It seemed to her that in many respects
he compared favourably with her absent cousin. The graceful
manners and manly bearing of the courtier of twenty-six were
not unnaturally pleasing in her eyes, when she contrasted them
with those of the half-formed scholar of twenty, and when it is
considered that in stature, and in comeliness of face and person,
the more mature gallant was no whit the least attractive of the
two.

The long absence of Gilbert Brent also had tended to weaken
any little tenderness which Isabel might have felt towards him;
it had never been any very perfect sympathy; and now, without
much violent mental conflict, she turned a willing ear to the
courtly compliments of his more splendid rival.

For that a rival he was, was soon made evident. He had,
after his manner, fallen in love with Isabel at first sight; not
with a deep, strong, unselfish passion like that of Gilbert—to a
man of his character and training that would have been an
impossibility—but still with a love which was perfectly genuine
so far as it went. That is to say, he was full of admiration for





A New Love. 55



her as the most beautiful maiden he had seen in the neighbour-
hood of Hilworth; and he conceived that there was no ‘pursuit
in which he could engage with so much enjoyment during his
forced retirement, as laying siege to her heart. Such were his
feelings at their first meeting ; but perhaps we shall see that, as
he follows the chase, he will become more seriously interested in
this pursuit than he had at first intended or imagined possible.

Piers Oversley soon became a frequent visitor at Melcomb.
At first, and whilst he came as a mere ordinary guest, he
received a hearty welcome from the hospitable esquire and Dame
Margaret Brent; but no sooner did the object of his visits
become manifest, than there was, in this respect, a complete
change. Whether the worthy lord of Melcomb did or did not
believe in the tales told to Oversley’s discredit, I cannot say, nor
whether, even if he did, he considered them as serious matters of
objection; but it is certain that this fine town gallant was by no
means the husband he desired for his daughter Isabel.

A plain, worthy gentleman was this Henry Brent, who,
though he was esteemed a man of good judgment in his own
proper affairs and those of his neighbours, cared little for public
business or great men, and who desired nothing so much as to
stand well-among his own people. That his “eldest daughter
should be wedded to some neighbouring gentleman of his own
standing, was a point upon which he had. altogether set his heart.
Had he ever thought of his poor kinsman, Gilbert Brent, as a
suitor for her hand, it would have vexed him sorely; but this
dainty courtier, with his fine airs, was far worse, and not to be
endured; he determined to be rid of him at once.

By the time, however, that he had formed this resolution, the
affair had proceeded much farther than he had supposed, and
Piers Oversley had become really in earnest. Explanations
followed, in which the gallant exerted himself to the utmost to
gain over Master Brent to his wishes; but it was in vain that
he urged his own brilliant prospects, and the advantageous posi-
tion which the daughter of his host might hope to attain by the
match; the lord of Melcomb was not a man to change from
resolutions once formed ; and, as the upshot of the interview,







56 The Green Huntsman.

Oversley learned that the doors of Melcomb would in future be
closed against him.

But a repulse of this nature, far from crushing the hopes of
the adventurous courtier, only incited him to follow his quest
with still greater eagerness. He had reason for knowing that
there was no aversion to himself on the part of Mistress Isabel,
and since he could not woo and win her openly, he would do so
in secret. He looked round him for some agent through whom
he might safely and privately communicate with her, and at this
juncture thought of Ralph Gurton.

On the evening which followed his unsuccessful interview
with Brent, therefore, to Gurton’s cottage he took his way. The
ranger lived quite on the outskirts of the park, and by choosing
the hour of twilight in which to seek him, and by well drawing
his hood about his face, Oversley doubted not but that he should
escape, as for obvious reasons he wished to do, the observation
of any of the family or dependants of Melcomb.

With Ralph Gurton the reader has already some acquaintance.
He was a sturdy yeoman, slightly past the middle age, and
of an upright, determined, but somewhat stolid character. He
was sitting within, fitting his cross-bow with a new string, whilst
Barbara was busy with her spinning-wheel, when Oversley
knocked at the door. The rough voice of the ranger bade his
unknown guest “lift the latch and enter ;’ the visitor, however,
chose rather to open the door but a hand-breadth’s space, and to
summon Gurton forth to speak with him. Thus bidden, honest
Ralph rose and went out.

“Tt is I,” said the gallant, “ Piers Oversley ; I have somewhat
to say to you, and the matter is for your ears alone.”

«Say on then, noble sir, you need fear no eaves-droppers ;
for, save Barbara’s and our own, there are no ears within many a
bowshot of this place.”

“Tt is well, then; we will pace under these trees. Listen,

Ralph Gurton; you are a man who may be trusted, I shall speak

”



with you frankly : you owe me some service

“ And am ready to pay my debts, Master Oversley,” chimed
in the ranger. “I had been a drowned man but for you; and,









A New Love. By



saving my duty to my master and my master’s house, whatever
I can do is at your command.”

“{ doubt it not; and, therefore, I speak freely to you of
things that I would name to no other man, Look you, your
young mistress and I would fain wed each other, but J am hated
by her father, and shall be no more suffered to enter his house.
What I ask of you is this, that you should find means whereby
we may send to each other, and, if need be, meet.”

The ranger drew his hand across his forehead, and paused
before he answered. “ Master Oversley,” he said, “in doing this,
I should be doing false and evil service toomy lord =

“For atime he might think so,” replied the gallant ; “ but in
the end you would do “him better service than he is willing to do
himself, for you will help his daughter to a better match than
he will ever fashion for her.”

“This may well be as you say,” said Ralph ; “yet it seems
that I may lose my master’s good opinion in the meanwhile, and
that I were loth to risk.”

“You do well to consider your master,’ was the answer ;
“but you must think of your young mistress also. Remember
that Mistress Isabel’s will is wholly set upon this matter; and if
no way of forwarding it be found, she will be heart- broken, and
pine away, Ralph Gurton.”

“ The saints forbid, the saints forbid |” said the honest ranger ;
and then, as though struck by a happy thought, he added, “ Since
this is a business which mainly concerns “Mistress Isabel, why
should we stand here talking of it in the dark ? Come into my
cottage, noble sir; you may trust Barbara to the death in aught
that concerns her young mistress, whom she loves more than
she would have loved our own child, if—Heaven rest it !—it had
iiveds i anything i is to be done in this matter, you may trust
her woman’s wit for carrying it through.”

Gurton was in the right; for no sooner had the case been laid
open to Barbara, than ‘she at once found arguments to over-
power her husband’s objections. Barbara was not troubled with
unnecessary scruples herself, and she was accustomed to lead,
and to mark out a way for her slower eae es er re eae see aie al To her there



58 The Green Huntsman.



was no higher ideal of duty than pleasing her young mistress,
and beyond this, the prospect of bearing part in an intrigue was
too captivating an idea to be resisted. Thus it was that
Oversley obtained promises of active assistance and perfect
secrecy.

Before the gallant left the cottage, he pressed a golden angel
into Barbara’s unresisting palm; and as the ranger bade him
“God speed” at the door, he would fain have given to hima like
proof of his generosity; but worthy Ralph would none of it.
“No, no, Master Oversley,” he said ; “I am your debtor, and in
what I shall do for you, I shall seek to pay off the kindness you
have done to me: [| ask not for your money. If I, being a poor
man, suffer loss of place in your service, then I shall look to your
nobleness to provide forme. Beyond this, I ask for nothing ;”
and with these words, the ranger turned back into his house.



IV.—THE OLD LOVE.

YNREAT part of a year had gone by since Gilbert Brent had
XM left Melcomb. For some time past his few packets from
Isabel, brief and far apart as they were, had been so cold and
distant as greatly to trouble him; but the crowning point was
now put to his distress by a letter which he received from her.
In this document she calmly gave him to understand that for
many reasons it was impossible that they should ever be united,
and that they must forget that troth had ever been plighted
between them. Upon this decision of hers he was to look as
final and irrevocable, and any attempt on his part to renew their
intercourse as lovers would provoke her deepest displeasure.
Above all things, she insisted that he should not as yet think of
visiting Melcomb. After awhile, when both of them could look
with indifference on the childish folly of which they had been
guilty, not one of all her kindred should she welcome with so
much joy as Gilbert ; but at present, his appearance there would
be an offence which she could never forgive.





The Old Love.

59



To the misery caused by this epistle was added no small
degree of perplexity as to what course it was best to pursue.
| Gilbert Brent’s was a deep and strong nature, and he was not
| given to change through mere absence or lapse of time. His
| love was to him the better part of his existence, and death would
have been easier than renouncing it. He must shake her reso-
lution, but to do so he must see her, and to see her he must at
once goto Melcomb. Her displeasure would have to be braved ;
; but no matter, it was his only hope. He would set out at once.

Accordingly, to Melcomb he came. His arrival was, of

course, wholly unlooked for. The esquire was from home, but
from Dame Margaret he received the same kind and motherly
greeting as of old; from which he inferred that Isabel’s letter
was not written with the knowledge of her parents. Uncertain
as he was of the nature of his reception, he was most impatient
to meet with his cousin; and when he heard that she was alone
| inthe pleasaunce, he hurried out to seek her.
| Since the days of Hugh Massenger, the old manor-house at
Melcomb had in many ways been enlarged and altered, but the
| pleasaunce still remained as it had ever been. Isabel Brent was
now taking the air in the same quaint and dainty paradise,
| bordered by the same trim hedges of clipped yew, as that in
which we have seen her ancestress moving among her doves well-
nigh a century before; but, alas! the daughter of the house of
| Melcomb who now walked there was a far different maiden to
| the simple and gentle Alice Massenger.
When Gilbert entered the enclosure, he saw that Isabel was
trifling with the flowers at the farther end, but she gave no sign
that she was aware of his presence. Presently she turned and
moved slowly towards the house, but Gilbert was still apparently
unobserved. Gathering a rose, he stepped forward to meet her,
| and with doffed cap, bending on his knee, he proffered his rose.
| His graceful gallantry was thrown away; without deigning him
| word or look, she swept past. “Isabel!” he cried; “ sweetest
| Cousin Isabel, for old kindness’ sake do not use me thus!” But
she had passed into the house, and was gone.

Gilbert had looked for no very gentle reception; he had













































60 The Green Huntsman.



expected that certain reproachful speeches would have to be
borne before he could make his peace with his cousin; but to be
ignored in this manner was more than he had calculated upon,
and his temper was sorely ruffled. Crushing the unlucky rose
between his hands, he strode from the pleasaunce across the
park, and deep into the wood.

He did so almost involuntarily, yet he could not have done a
wiser thing. It gave him time for enough solitary reflection to
bring conviction that anger against his cousin was worse than folly.
A reconciliation was the one thing he had to live for, and an
angry altercation with her at this juncture would ruin his hopes
for ever. He would be calm, patient, moderate, and give her no
grounds on which to fix a quarrel. Doubtless she would try to
avoid speaking with him in private, but he would watch his
occasion, and by some means or other gain an interview ; then
he would soothe her, would overcome her objections, and woo
her anew. In the end, all would yet be well.

In this mood he returned to the house.

V.—THE STONE HUNTING LODGE.

ee opportunity which our scholar had promised himself did
not occur that day, nor the next. He saw Isabel, indeed,
before the other members of the family, in whose presence she
was simply cold and distant; but she took care that he should
never meet her alone.

The third day was far advanced when his kinsman suggested
that they should walk to see his newly-made fish-ponds. Gilbert
assented, and they strolled down towards the river, from which
the recently-formed stews were to be supplied bya sluice. They
had almost reached the point of interest, when the young lawyer
turned, and happened to cast his eyes on the rising ground which
sloped upwards on the opposite side of the house. A solitary
female figure was climbing the brow of the hill, and this figure
must be Isabel, for on this point his eyes could not deceive him ;





THE ROSE.

On, DAINTY ROSE, most fair, meet for my love to wear,
Therefore, for her sweet sake, do 1 so cherish thee!

She scorns thee? Then let fall thy painted petals all,
Thou hast no more perfume, no more bright hues for me.



LESS THAN KIND.





a

ee







The Stone Hunting Lodge. 63



another moment, and she was lost among the thick trees which
crowned the bank.

“She must have watched us leave the house,” he thought,
“ and then set out at once. She is gone to the favourite haunt
of her girlhood, the Old Stone Hunting Lodge, and now is the
time when I may speak to her without interruption.” Saying
this to himself, he made some trifling excuse to his kinsman, and
set off at a rapid pace towards the hill.

The trees covering the summit of the ridge among which
Isabel had disappeared formed the outskirt of Melcomb Wood,
and alittle beyond them was a hollow, the level bottom of which,
though surrounded by thick woodland, was, for the space of
about a rood, open and grassy. In the midst of this sylvan dell
an abundant spring of fair water bubbled up, and then flowed
down a stony channel to be lost in the thicket. On a slight
elevation above the spring and its surrounding green sward,
stood the sequestered building already alluded to.

The Old Stone Hunting Lodge had been originally built by
Giles Brent, shortly after he had emparked Melcomb Wood and
the surrounding lands; and by him both it and the neighbouring
well had been sportively dedicated to St. Eustace. He had built
it that he might, in this secluded place, listen to the belling of
his harts, a sound in which he took great delight ; but since his
day it had seldom been frequented by his descendants, except
for the sake of occasional shelter when hunting or fowling, and
hence, instead of St. Eustace Lodge, it had gained its present
name.

Although of small size—for twenty paces would have girthed
it round—it was, like most works of that day, curiously built and
ornamented, after the fashion of what those studious of archi-
tecture have, from its want of classical simplicity and beauty,
aptly termed “ Gothic ;” and was, therefore, to us who have the
advantage of an acquaintance with the noble works of the
ancients, a building worthy only of contempt; although I under-
stand that Mr. Gray, the poet, and his friend Mr. Horace
Walpole, have the singular taste to admire, and the latter even
to imitate, such efforts of an unpolished age.



a ee ee
64 The Green Huntsman.

This lodge was of an eight-sided shape ; four of the walls were
pierced by arches, one of which contained the door, whilst the
other three were filled with quarries of fair glass; and in the
four walls which alternated with these, similar arches formed, as
it were, large panels, which had been filled with figures of men,
horses, dogs, and deer, painted, after the barbarous fashion of
the age, from the legend of St. Eustace; but these had been
greatly defaced by time. The roof overhead was of stone, and
curiously fretted ; whilst round the walls ran a range of stone
benches, on which those who loved such cold and hard seats
might lie or sit at their ease.

From the top of the hill towards Melcomb the roof of this
building might plainly be seen, through the tree-tops, lying less
than half a bowshot below; but to reach it from thence, owing
to the steepness of the descent, a winding pathway of some
length had to be taken. Gilbert had hastily climbed the bank,
and would have hurried down at still greater speed, had he met
with no hindrance; but much to his vexation, just at this very
point, he met with the ranger, Ralph Gurton.

The worthy Ralph was loitering among the trees, cross-bow
in hand, and apparently on the look-out for his old enemies, the
kites and polecats. Gilbert would fain have avoided him, but
this was out of the question; for the ranger, though not usually
garrulous, seemed on this occasion so bent on talking, that one
might almost have suspected him of an express design to delay
the scholar’s progress. Gilbert began to fear that he should
have to hear reports on the health and prosperity of all the
animals under Gurton’s charge, from deer downwards; and
writhing under the infliction, was about to burst away abruptly,
on the plea that he must hasten to the Old Lodge, when the
ranger exclaimed suddenly, “Ha, are you there, my master !”
and, levelling his cross-bow, discharged it. “A bad shot, a bad
shot !” he said, a moment afterwards. “’Twas a windhover on
the roof of the lodge yonder, but I missed her.”

Gilbert had looked in the direction of the shot, but possibly
his eyes were less keen than those of the ranger, for no bird had
been seen by him at the place indicated.















Parley. 65



VIL— PARLEY.

eee had not erred in his conjecture. It was Isabel he
3G had seen on the hill, and she was bound for the Old Stone
Hunting Lodge. But it was not that she might indulge in solitary
sorrow that she went there; the lodge had already an occu-
pant. As she entered, Master Piers Oversley came forward,
and, bending gaily on one knee, kissed her hand. “ Most sweet
Mistress Isabel,” he said, “in obedience to the mandate brought
by your trusty Mercury, I was at this place two hours before
sunset. Save that I had the flames of love to warm me, [|
should have suffered much from cold in this chilly vault, and the
time which ever seems long when I wait for you, seemed as
though it would never pass by.”

“ Patience is a virtue much to be commended in lovers,”
answered the lady; “ yet I had kept my time had all been well.
But my loving and much-misused cousin, of whom I have told
you, is now at Melcomb, and I had little will for him to see me
come hither.”

“Nay, fair lady, seek not for excuses; your coming has
now richly rewarded my virtue of patience. No harm shall
come of the delay, unless, indeed, it may have wearied our
valiant sentinel, and caused him to leave his post.”

“Fear not for that,” replied Isabel; “the trusty Ralph is
still on guard, and now truly we shall need him more than ever.
This bookish stripling is ever on the watch to follow and speak
with me, a thing which I most study to avoid. Would he were
anywhere but at Melcomb !”

“ Nay, be not angry with the youngling, fair Mistress Isabel.
Schoolboys are ever troublesome unless they are chastised ; and
as for this one, if he is too forward, I shall take upon myself to
correct him.”

“ And if he invite the rod, I shall not be the fond kinswoman
to shield him from punishment,” said Isabel, with a laugh.

“He shall be well whipped,” continued he, “and with his
whipping we will send the truant away; for he wastes our golden









66 The Green Huntsman.



moments, fair Mistress Isabel, in which we might well speak of
better matters, and chiefly as to our flight. I have appointed
all things needful for it.”

“ Scarcely so, Master Piers Oversley, since you have as yet
to gain my consent thereto.”

“ As to that, I shall ask it in so winning a manner,” said the
gallant, bending forward and giving a delicate salute to her lips,
“that I doubt not of obtaining it. Then, as I said, all things
needful are appointed, and But how now, what is this ?”

At that instant something struck the roof of the lodge sharply.

“°Tis Gurton’s signal; someone comes this way,” said Isabel.

“ Without doubt ’twas his cross-bow bolt, and we must part
before we have fairly spoken,” answered Oversley. “A thou-
sand sorrows light on the intruder !”

“Spare your maledictions,” she said, “or rather change them
for farewells, for you must at once away.”

“ Too true, sweet Mistress Isabel, and so adieu.”

In another instant he had disappeared in the wood.

He had scarcely passed from sight, when Gilbert Brent
descended into the dell, and approached the lodge. “I was
right,” he thought, as he observed that the door stood partially
open, “Isabel is here;” and then, slightly tapping before he
entered, but without waiting for any response, he passed in.

Isabel was sitting, with her hands before her face, on one of
the stone benches. He supposed at first that she had been
weeping; but when she removed her hands, no traces of tears
were to be seen. Knowing, as he did, that he was forcing his
unwelcome presence upon the maiden whom he most desired to
conciliate, he paused for a moment to consider in what words it
were best to address her; but his hesitation was needless.
Now she was fairly brought to bay, Isabel Brent was not one to
shrink from the position ; she turned upon him at once.

“T came hither,” she said, ‘‘ because I desired to be alone;
this intrusion is another proof of the regard you have for my
wishes, Master Gilbert Brent.”

“Cousin Isabel,” he answered, in a gentle tone, “I have
indeed followed you to this place, and, as you say, knowing that









Parley. 67



my presence was undesired ; but, Isabel, my love for you has
driven me to this discourtesy, and for that and for old kindness’
sake you must pardon me.”

“Talk not to me of love,” said she, sharply ; “true love is
loyal and obeys, but you seek only to cross and thwart me !”

“ Not so, Cousin Isabel ; I only seek to win your goodwill. I
have ridden a hundred miles to ask forgiveness for any fault I
may have committed, and now, is it generous of you to deny me
a hearing ?”

“ And what good,” she answered, “ should come of my hear-
ing you? It would be but opening old griefs anew. I have
told you already that our childish love-making must be forgotten.
I have told you that this was my resolution, and that it could not
be changed. And I have told you in a manner not to be mis-
taken. After this you have no right to force yourself into my
presence.”

“ Isabel,” said Gilbert, “ you speak to me inanger. If I had
shown myself so careless of you as to renounce you without an
effort, you would have had good cause for your indignation. I
have only proved the depth of my love for you; you must not,
cannot, be angry with me for this.”

“And if not, have I much cause to be pleased with you
otherwise? Did I not charge you above all things not to
present yourself at Melcomb at this unhappy moment, and how
have you kept my charge ?”

“Tfear me, cousin,” said Gilbert; “I have no wish to defend
myself at the cost of a dispute with you. I came to Melcomb,
as I came to this lodge to-day, because I must speak with you,
because I cannot give you up, because you and your love are
more to me than my life. How could I tell you this, how
could I force you to believe me in earnest, without seeing
you? As the saints are above us, dearest Isabel, I desire not
to vex you; I wish only to lay open my whole heart before you,
to discover and remove whatever cause of bitterness you may
have against me, and to win once more such a promise of your
love as I received when we plighted our troth among the lilies
of yonder stream.”









68 The Green Huntsman.



As Gilbert was passionately uttering these words, he thought
he saw some traces of tenderness, some signs of rising tears, in
Isabel’s eyes; but as he ended, he observed her looking with
such a startled expression towards one of the windows, as to
cause him involuntarily to turn his eyes in the same direction.
The shades of evening fell early in that deep woodland hollow,
and the twilight was already darkening the lodge, yet he could
not be mistaken; the face of a man was looking in upon
them through the broken quarries.

He stepped forward, but the apparition had disappeared ; he
sprang to the door and looked round, but the dim solitary dell .
was as quiet as though it had never been crossed by human .
footstep.

“Saw you nothing ?” he asked, as he returned to his cousin.

“Something passed the window,” she answered in a cold
tone, “ but I saw nothing distinctly; it may have been an owl.”

“ T cannot have been deceived,” said Gilbert; “what I saw
was plainly a face, a man’s face.”

“ Quite likely,” she replied in the same uninterested manner ;
“and if so, it was doubtless that of Ralph; he has charge to
watch over my solitary walks.”

“Tt was not Ralph,” was the reply ; “ but it is gone, and let
it pass ;” and with that Gilbert endeavoured to return to that
point of the conversation at which the interruption had occurred.

“ And now,” he said, “ dear Cousin Isabel, you must tell me
by what fault I drew upon myself the letter which has caused all
this wretchedness. I ask for no revelations which may affect
you; I only ask to know what I have done amiss that I may
amend it, and again gain your goodwill as of old.”

But all the tenderness had passed from Isabel’s eyes now.
“T charge you with no faults,” she said in a hard tone as she rose
from her seat ; “and I offer no explanations. We will waste no
more idle words here; suffice it that you and I can never be
lovers again. Once more’! freely resign the troth you gave;
restore me mine.”

“Isabel! Isabel!” he cried; “you ask an impossibility. I
cannot renounce you.”









War Declared. 69

“Give me back my troth,” she continued, moving towards
the door, “and we will be friends; refuse me—cross me, and |
shall be your enemy.”

“T cannot give you back your troth,” he gasped. “TI cannot
lie to you, and say I will not love you. I must and will while I
have life !”

“Then we shall not be friends,” she said, and left him alone
in the lodge.



Vil.—WAR DECLARED.

¥VSABEL’S declaration of war was no empty threat. If during
#& her conversation with her cousin she had ever, as he
imagined, in any degree softened towards him, it was but a
momentary emotion, to be soon replaced by redoubled bitterness
at the obstinacy which he afterwards showed. Far from being
flattered by his unswerving devotion towards her, she was
annoyed at what she looked upon as his perverse persistency ;
partly, perhaps, because he was himself by this time grown
hateful to her, and partly because she feared that he might arouse
the jealousy of Piers Oversley, and prove a means of separating
her from the man on whom she had now set her heart. In some
way or other she was determined to shake him off.

Of the love passages which had occurred between his
daughter and his kinsman, the lord of Melcomb had, as we have
seen, known nothing. He was therefore greatly surprised when,
on the morning which followed the meeting at the Stone Hunt-
ing Lodge, Isabel related the whole matter to him, with much
apparent frankness, expressing, at the same time, the deepest
contrition for her own folly, and asking for his protection from
any future persecutions on the part of her cousin Gilbert.

An hour later.the scholar was summoned to his kinsman’s
presence, and charged by him with the offence of clandestinely
making love to his daughter. That Gilbert’s conduct had been
in any way underhand in the matter was not, as has been shown,







BRAS scree Va i eR









70 . The Green Huntsman.



his own fault; but this he could not assert without throwing
blame on Isabel, and he could not therefore clear his own
character as he might otherwise have done; whilst he made no
attempt to deny the fact of his love. But to Henry Brent’s
demand that he should then and for ever resign all pretensions
to Isabel, he answered that his troth was once plighted, and he
could not revoke it; and that he could not make a promise which
he had not the power over himself to keep honourably.

Henry Brent had many good qualities, but a patient temper
was not included among them. He was deeply incensed at this
answer of his kinsman, and at once bade him leave the place, and
never again darken the doors of Melcomb.

Had Gilbert been guided by his natural good sense, rather
than by his love, he would at this juncture have acknowledged
himself beaten, and would have withdrawn from the field. But
he was under the influence of a power which forbade him to
surrender Isabel, or even to leave the neighbourhood in which
he might still hope to see her. He fondly flattered himself that
had not his interview with her been so strangely interrupted, he
might have brought it to a favourable issue, and that could he
again prevail on her to speak with him, he might still hope for
success. In any case, speak to her he must; to leave the neigh-
bourhood without doing so would be more than he could bear.

It would be vain to say that the idea of his mistress having
another and a more favoured lover had never crossed his mind.
Naturally, this was one of the many conjectures by which he had
endeavoured to account for the change in her feelings towards
himself; but he had heard and seen nothing calculated to bear
out such a surmise, and had therefore dismissed it from his
thoughts as unworthy of himself and of her. Certainly, he never
imagined that her visit to the Old Lodge was to meet a rival ; nor
had the face at the window raised any such suspicion ; indeed,
he was more than half inclined to attribute that appearance to
some supernatural cause, for the patronage of St. Eustace had
not been sufficient to save the hollow from the reputation of
being haunted, even in those days.

Instead, therefore, of returning to London, Gilbert took up his







War Declared. 71

abode in a hostelry not far from Melcomb, and watched and
waited till chance should afford him that opportunity of speaking
with his cousin for which he so much longed. He did not doubt
but that the Old Stone Hunting Lodge would still at times be
frequented by her, as it had always been; and it was there that
he resolved chiefly to seek her.

At no great distance from the nominal domains of St. Eustace,
a large oak—of note as an ancient landmark—stood half within
and half without the pale of Melcomb Park ; and to Gilbert, by
whom every nook and corner around Melcomb were known, it
suggested itself as affording a place at which the park might be
entered with ease and secrecy. Unknown to him, Piers Oversley
had also, by Gurton’s advice, made use of it for the same
purpose, as well as employing it for another, which it may be well
to mention at this place.

Any billet which that gallant desired to send to Mistress
Isabel he deposited in the hollow of this tree, which he did
without entering the park, or arousing suspicion. It was then
within reach of Gurton, who could from his own side of the
barrier take it from its hiding-place, and convey it to his wife,
from whom it reached the hands of her lady; whilst the reverse
of this arrangement conveyed Isabel’s own missives to her lover.
It was to Barbara’s invention that this contrivance was due.

But as Gilbert made the old tree a means of climbing into
the forbidden Eden, he knew nothing of those weapons for his
own wounding which its trunk might contain. Twice he thus
scaled the park palings, and without result; the third time he
was more successful. As he stole unseen along the brow of the
hill, he first observed the ranger, his cross-bow on his arm,
sauntering leisurely in the direction of his cottage, and a moment
afterwards he became aware that Isabel was herself climbing the
steep path from the dell.

The better to escape observation, Gilbert had disguised
himself in a green hunting suit instead of his ordinary attire, so
that through the branches Isabel did not see, or, in any case,
recognise him, till she was close upon him; but the expression
which her beautiful face then assumed was not one to encourage













at

72 The Green Hluntsman.



a despairing lover. Gilbert could see in it nothing but hatred
and aversion. If she could have passed him without pausing or
unclosing her lips she would have done so; but this he did not
permit. He stood right in front of her in the middle of the
path. “Isabel!” he said only, and held out his hand beseech- |
ingly towards her.

But she took no notice of the proffered token of amity. “How
dare you,” she said, “thus like a robber to waylay and stop me ?
Stand aside, and hinder me not, Gilbert Brent !”

“Cousin Isabel!” he cried, passionately; “hear me, hear me!
I must speak with you; for this once give me a hearing!”

“JT have heard you too much already,” she answered,
haughtily. “Stand out of my way, or I call to yonder yeoman.
He carries his cross-bow, and knows his duty towards such as
break into his master’s park.”

“Qh, Isabel!” he cried again, as he mechanically obeyed her
gesture, and fell back ; “can nothing move you? Have you no
memory of old times?” But she passed on, and left him standing
alone and motionless.

She proceeded for a few steps. She heard his appeal, but
did not heed it; instead of it her own last words were ringing in
her ears— He carries his cross-bow, and knows his duty towards
such as break into his master’s park.” Wer own hasty threat had
suggested a resolution to her. She stopped, turned round, and
beckoned him to approach.

“Will nothing satisfy you,” she said, “that you thus persecute
me—nothing but giving you another interview ?”

“T must speak with you again, Cousin Isabel.”

“Then I will give you one. To-morrow, half-an-hour after
sunset, come to the Old Stone Hunting Lodge. I will be there
alone.”

“TY shall not fail,” he said; “no, not if it should cost me my
life.”

“ But listen,” she continued ; “my father, in his anger against
you, has given orders that no intruder shall be allowed to enter
the park; yet Ralph Gurton will do as I bid him. Come
to-morrow in the same hunter’s dress that you wear to-day, and











4 Shot with the Cvross-bow. 73

the ranger will be blind to your being Gilbert Brent, and know
you only as the Green Huntsman who will come to meet me. If
he hail you, answer only, “I go thither,” and point towards the
old lodge, and for that he shall let you pass; remember this.”

So saying, she again turned, and walked hastily down the hill.

As she passed by Ralph Gurton, she half paused that she
might acquaint him with the design she was plotting, and secure
his co-operation ; but, on second thoughts, she hurried onwards.
“ Better | should not open the subject to him,” she said to her-
self, “I will place him in the hands of one whose influence over
him is more complete than mine.”

That evening Barbara was summoned to a consultation with
her young mistress. It will not be necessary to set down all
that passed between them. Barbara’s parting words will suffi-
ciently indicate their drift. They were—“ Fear nothing, sweet

ne; I shall so order Ralph that he shall do his part; and he
never needs to shoot two bolts at the same deer.”

VILA SHOT WITIL THE CROSS-BOW.

SKeNYONE less infatuated than Gilbert Brent would have seen
AX enough in Isabel’s manner to have felt his hopes utterly
crushed ; but an interview with her was just then the one object
he desired. She had made him an assignation, and however
ungraciously she had done it, he rejoiced in it. He had said
truly that he would rather have died than failed; and with a
heart lighter than it had been for many a day past, he set forth
to keep the appointment.

He had almost reached the old oak tree, which has before
been mentioned, when he was startled by seeing some person
standing close to its bole, and apparently quite unaware of his
approach. The person in question was none other than Piers
Oversley, who was at the moment groping in the hollow trunk
for an expected letter of Isabel’s. As he drew it out he turned,
and, as he did so, suddenly found himself face to face with













74 The Green Huntsman.



his rival. Once only had Oversley seen that rival before, and
his solitary glance at him had been through the shattered
quarries of the window of the Old Hunting Lodge; but we may
be well sure that on the occasion in question he had taken good
note of his features, and was in no danger of forgetting them
readily.

Oversley was startled, but not to the same extent as Gilbert,
who, when the stranger turned round, at once recognised the face
he had seen in the window. There was no question now as to
its being other than real flesh and blood; and in a moment the
true nature of this man’s motive for haunting the neighbourhood
of the lodge flashed upon his mind. The billet he held in his
hand was convincing proof. It was a rival then that had caysed
all this misery, and that rival stood before him. Gilbert felt that
he could have made at his throat, and worried him like a wild
beast.

It may have been that in his heart Piers Oversley was not a
whit more peaceably disposed than Gilbert, but he was an older
man, and had been bred at court. The young scholar’s hand
had involuntarily strayed to the pummel of his sword. Piers did
nothing of the kind; he merely raised his own, and, doffing his cap,
made a low, and, as his rival thought, a somewhat sarcastic bow,
saying, as he did so, “ Here, then, it is my good hap to meet
that clerkly Master Gilbert Brent of whom I have heard so
much.”

Gilbert was in no mood for empty courtesies, and the salute
with which he returned that of Oversley was so stiff as to be
scarce perceptible. ‘“ How, or whence,” he said, “my name may
have reached you I am ignorant, yet such it is; of yours I know
nothing, and nothing do I care to know.”

“ Nevertheless, Sir Scholar, I shall gladly make myself known
to you. Piers Oversley is my name, a poor esquire, and
much at your clerkship’s service. Nay, disdain not my fellow-
ship; we have, as it would seem, a common interest, and there-
fore should be friends.”

“T know nothing of the common interest you speak of, and
desire none of your friendship,” said Gilbert, bluntly.











A Shot with the Cross-bow. a



“Ah!” replied the courtier; “can you be ignorant that I
speak of the favour of fair Mistress Isabel Brent, to which we
both would seem to be aspirants ?”

The smile and the sarcastic politeness of the tone in which
Oversley delivered this was ten times more irritating to his rival
than any professed rudeness could have been ; and his temper,
already under no very strong control, now fairly burst forth.
“ Hark you, Master Piers Oversley,” he cried; “since by your
own showing you are my supplanter and my enemy, as such
alone will I meet you. Draw, if you are a man, and defend
yourself!” and Gilbert’s weapon flew from its scabbard.

“Nay, gentle youth,’ answered Oversley, in the same
unruffled tone; “be not too fast. I see no ground fora quarrel.
If you have lost, and I have won favour with this lady, I have
more reason to pity than harm you; also, it would be little to
my mind to do violence to any kinsman of Mistress Isabel Brent.
Put up your iron; there is no cause for a quarrel betwixt us two.”

“No cause for a quarrel!” cried Gilbert, fiercely; “then let
this be one!” and, so saying, he flung his glove with all his force
in the other’s face.

The blood rushed to Oversley’s cheeks and forehead, and he
crushed the offending glove beneath his heel with a gesture of
contempt; yet he still retained his composure, and said, in even
a more quiet tone than before, “You are in the right, young
man; there is good ground for a quarrel now. Therefore look
to your life, as he may well need to do who crosses swords with
Piers Oversley.”

Gilbert needed no second bidding, and he flew upon his rival
as fiercely as a wild cat. He was young, strong, and active;
but Oversley had made no idle boast of his swordsmanship, and
the young scholar’s fury expended itself in vain. At first
Oversley simply stood on the defensive, and then, when his
opponent had exhausted himself, by a well-directed lunge he
stretched him bleeding at his feet.

To a man like Piers Oversley, who had taken part in at least
a dozen such scenes as this, the result brought no particular
feelings of horror or remorse. He had wished to chastise











76 The Green Fluntsman.

Gilbert Brent, and he had done so, though perhaps rather more
severely than he had intended. He scarcely would have wished
his deed undone, even had such a thing been possible. And
yet he was not a man devoid of kindly human feelings; for now
when his antagonist was disabled he would gladly have given
him any help in his power. He raised the young man’s head
upon his knee, and tried to stanch the blood which was flowing

freely.
Gilbert could see that all this was meant in kindness ; but
he shook his head. “It is in vain,” he said; “I am going fast.

Only give me your hand, and hear what I have to say. I hold
you guiltless of my death, which has been altogether of my own
seeking; and now, if you would have a dying man’s blessing,
promise to do one thing for me.”

“ Anything that I can in reason do,” said Oversley, “ shall
be done; on the word of a gentleman.”

“ Know, then,” continued Gilbert, in a low tone, “that I was
even now on my way to the Old Stone Lodge, there to meet with
Isabel Brent. I had solemnly pledged myself to be there, and
not to fail. Go now, and tell her that to the death I was
constant to my love, and that my last words and thoughts were
of her. Say, also, that now I give her back her troth.”

At these words Oversley gave a start, which drew a groan
from the wounded man.

“ Stay,” he went on, in a yet more feeble voice, “there is
danger on the way. A watch has been set by my kinsman, and
whosoever breaks his park will be slain. Put on these my green
doublet and cap. The Green Huntsman will be known and
spared. If any man bids you stay, point to the lodge, and say,
‘I go thither,’ and you will be let pass.”

“All this I shall bear in mind,” replied the other, as he
assumed the disguise.

“Tt is well,” said Gilbert; “haste thee away then, and do my
bidding ;” and then, falling back, he became unconscious.

A pang of jealousy, and a feeling of distrust in Isabel’s good
faith, had stung Oversley as Gilbert had told of her assignation
with himself; and he would have burned to meet her that he





A Shot with the Cross-bow. vey,

might test her feelings towards his een oe if for no other
reason; but there were other motives which made him gladly
hasten to perform his promise. “Something of my old good
luck is still left to me,” he said to himself, as he strode across
the park. “The youngling has fallen in fair fight; yet none
saw it, and some men there are who may call the deed murder ;
therefore I must from Hilworth till the matter be forgotten or
made smooth; so, save for this happy chance—this ill-starred
stripling’s story and his disguise-—-I must have gone, and seen
no more of Isabel. Now I hasten to her at once, and plan how
she may join me; nay, if all go well, she shall fly with me this
very night.”

Busied with such thoughts as these, he reached the outskirts
of the wood. The grey light of evening still glimmered about
the open spaces of the park; but under the trees the dark
shadows were gathering apace. “I must hasten on,” he thought,
“or Isabel will weary of waiting in yonder dreary hollow ;” ‘and
he hurried on into the thickening x gloom of the woodland path,

Near that spot—twice before mentioned—where the winding
way descended to the Old Stone Hunting Lodge, half hidden by
underwood, and with his back against a tree, stood Ralph
Gurton. For an hour past he had “been standing there with his
cross-bow ready bent in his hand. The stout ranger had under-
taken an office which he abhorred from the bottom of his soul ;
but he had been led to believe it was his duty, and he had
undertaken it, and would not shrink. He stood there sullenly
determined to perform it to the uttermost. Yet as the twilight
deepened, and the night drew rapidly on, his heart beat more
freely. ‘“ The saints “be praised!” he muttered at last. “The
time is well-nigh past, and he comes not. He will not come now.”

An instant later he saw that he had congratulated himself
too quickly, for a figure came hastily down the path, and in the
uncertain light the ranger thought that he could make out a
green cap and hunting-dress. “It is the Green Huntsman,” he
thought, and levelled ae bow. A moment afterwards he let it fall
again, and his breath came more freely, for surely the step and
bearing were Piers Oversley’s, and not those of the man he had







78 The Green Fluntsman.



been taught to expect. “I will hail him,” he said to himself;
“for therein lies my surest test;” and then aloud—“ Ho! who-
ever passes there; stand, in King Henry’s name, or I shoot!”

But the Green Huntsman paid no obedience to his summons,
and hurried on, only answering as he went, and pointing down
the way, “I go thither.”

“Then,” said the ranger, slowly, “your blood be upon your
own head!” and with that he discharged his piece.

Barbara said truly that her husband never shot twice at the
same deer. In another second Piers Oversley lay dead across
the path, with a cross-bow quarrel through his brain.

Little more of this history remains to be told, except that
Gilbert Brent did not die of the severe wound given him by his
rival, but survived it many years. Shortly after his recovery he
entered the Church; and by his learning and excellent parts, so
advanced himself therein that he has always been looked upon
by us as one of the ornaments of our family. | His cousin Isabel
he never saw again. That unhappy lady was sent to a convent,
and there, not many years afterwards, she died, less, it was said,
of any bodily ailment than of sorrow and remorse.











ENE RO GUE ir.

Po:



YROM the time of the above tragical event, a considerable
space intervenes before any incidents of a private nature,
of sufficient interest to find a place in this chronicle, are
noted in our family annals. Nor do I gather that any of the name
of Brent gained special distinction in public affairs throughout the
earlier and greater part of the Wars of the Roses. In those
times, our ancestors would seem to have simply followed the
leadership of their powerful neighbour the Earl of Warwick, and
to have changed sides whenever he thought proper to do so; in
which line of conduct they were no doubt guided by a politic
regard for the safety of their own house and lands, and not by
any strong leaning towards either of the rival factions. Yet at
the last of this series of struggles—the Battle of Stoke, namely—
it is recorded that one Richard Brent of Melcomb, an esquire of
lands, was, for his bravery shown against the German mer-
cenaries, made knight on the field.

Whether the zeal then evinced for the House of Tudor
procured Court favour, or whether it was obtained through the
mediation of some noble patron, I know not; but at the Disso-
lution in the next reign, on the suppression of Halliford Priory,
a free grant of the lands of Worsley was made to Hugh, son of
the above-named Sir Richard Brent. By which grant, and
certain other accessions of property through marriage, the name










80 Melcomb Manor.

of Brent was enabled to bear itself bravely in the brave times
which followed; and during the reign of Elizabeth of glorious
memory, the Manor House being found too small and antiquated
for the importance of the family and the increased luxury of the
times, great part of it was demolished and rebuilt.

But after this long season of prosperity, there followed, in the
next age, a time of adversity. In the differences between King
Charles and his Parliament, the then representatives of the
family had the ill-fortune to engage with much zeal on his
Majesty’s party; Richard Brent, at that time lord of Melcomb,
aiding the King with money, and by his personal courage shown
in various actions. His two younger brothers were also men of
some note on the same side. Nathaniel, who was a divine, by
his eloquence, both in preaching and writing, ably advocated the
Royal cause; whilst the youngest brother, Major Gilbert Brent,
was accounted throughout the latter part of the war to be as
stout and diligent an officer as any in his Majesty’s service, and
was well respected even of the opposite party.

He passed unharmed through the war; but after the execu-
tion of his Majesty, being in South Wales at the time Colonel
Laugharne and his friends declared forthe King, he became one
of the leaders in that enterprise; and being afterwards, with
certain other officers and gentlemen, taken at the capture of
Pembroke, he, with the other chief men engaged in that unhappy
business, received sentence of death. Nevertheless, the Parlia-
ment having resolved that one only should suffer, a paper for
each man was placed in a steel cap; one paper being blank, and
on each of the others these words written—“ Life given by God.”
Major Brent being third in the order of drawing, by ill-hap took
the blank paper, and was forthwith led out and shot, receiving
his death like a stout soldier and valiant gentleman.

To the head of the family the close of these troubles was
also highly disastrous; for at that time Mr. Richard Brent was
threatened with confiscation, and to avoid utter ruin, he made
friends with some of the prevailing party; he was thus enabled,
by the sale of part of his estates and by fines raised on others,
to save his house and some wreck of his fortune.







[uterlogue L1. 81

From that time the Brents of Melcomb have been in no
position to assume much importance in the country, and Melcomb
itself has borne witness to the departed glory of its possessors.
The park has long since been done away, and converted into
arable and pasture land; and as the diminished household has
needed less space, some parts of the house have been allowed to
become ruinous.

Such is a brief sketch of our family history till the period of
my next narrative, the incidents of which may be supposed to
occur about the accession of the House of Hanover.











JEST AND EARNEST.



I.—TWO HOUSES.

~YOME fifty, or nearly fifty, years ago, there were plenty
of young people, and merry times enough, in our Mel-
comb neighbourhood. In this old Manor House, now
so silent, there were four young men and maidens, all full of life
and merriment; and again, in its close vicinity, at Worsley
Grange, you might have seen a still larger number, all in the
happy spring-tide of life, and with the fullest capacity for enjoy-
ment. The members of the two families were in those days on
the most intimate terms, and spent much time together; whilst
schemes of pleasure, such as were best suited to the season, were
matters of almost daily arrangement between them.

As the crow flies, Worsley Grange is little more than a mile
from Melcomb. By following a footpath through Melcomb
Wood, and then crossing a little plain of high open land, you
come upon other belts of woodland which fringe the farther brow
of the hill, and give beauty to the slopes immediately overhang-
ing Worsley; and straight down these green fields the footway
leads on to the Grange. It is little used now, but it was a well-
worn path in those days. As you crossed the high ground by
this track, you might have seen, a little to the left, an insulated
eminence, crowned by a tall clump of trees, and showing traces







Two Houses. 33

of ancient embankments. This was Norbury Mounds; and I make
mention of it in this place, because it is likely that I shall have to
refer to it more than once in the course of the coming narrative.

Worsley Grange lay at the bottom of the hill, in a pretty
sheltered valley ; but as a building it had little claim to beauty
or antiquity. I say “had,” for years ago it was pulled down,
and not a trace of it now remains. The house was modern, and
so were its occupants, the Heatherbys. They had nothing of
the ancient standing of Melcomb and our own family. The
estate of Worsley, as I have elsewhere mentioned, was formerly
Abbey property, and my own ancestors had obtained a grant of
it at the time of the Dissolution. But the troubles incident to
the Great Rebellion caused its loss ; the Brent of that time being
glad to sell it at a third of its value to an influential member of
the winning party, that he might thus secure his remaining pro-
perty, with the confiscation of which he was threatened.

The purchaser was one Obadiah Heatherby, a person of
unknown origin, who, like many others, rose to wealth and
importance in those troubled times on the ruin of better men
than himself. By this worthy, a house far more than propor-
tioned to the size of his estate had been built, and every possible
effort made to establish himself on an equal footing with the
older gentlemen, his neighbours.

But so far as he was personally concerned, these attempts on
the part of Mr. Obadiah Heatherby turned out to be complete
failures. The surrounding squires—Royalists to a man—acted
as though ignorant of his very existence; and his life was said
to have been shortened by the chagrin which their contempt
occasioned him.

Even to the next, if not to the third generation, the sins of
the Puritan father were visited upon the children, but as time
passed on, the old antipathy wore out, and by the period of which
I am speaking it had been clean forgotten. The heads of the
two families of Brent and Heatherby were at that time upon the
most neighbourly of terms; whilst, as I have already said, the
young people of the two houses could scarcely, under any cir-
cumstances, have been more intimate.









84 Fest and Earnest.



The Mr. Henry Brent who was in those days owner of
Melcomb had, for several years, been a widower ; and although
death had deprived him of more than one of his children, he had
still two sons and two daughters surviving. Some may, perhaps,
object that I am not a fitting person to give any sketch of the
character of Richard, the eldest of the Brent family ; but to these
I answer that I have undertaken to tell this story, to the right
understanding of which some description of that young man will
be necessary, and that I shall do my best to speak of him as
impartially as any indifferent person might do.

Richard Brent then, had, by the time at which I shall have
to introduce him to the reader, reached his six-and-twentieth
year; and being heir to an estate—reduced indeed, but still
sufficient—had not been bred to any profession. Most part of
his time was spent at Melcomb, where he made his home. He
was of a grave and thoughtful turn of mind, and occupied him-
self more among books, and less with the sports of the field, than
was common among young men of his condition; still he was a
man of too well balanced a mind to allow his love of study to
convert him into a bookworm or misanthropic recluse.

Of a totally opposite character was the younger brother
Charles, who, as a boy, had been looked upon as destined to do
great things in the world ; but his parts being rather brilliant than
solid, he had as yet done nothing as a man to make good his
early promise. Gay, witty, and volatile, with a restless disposi-
tion and no power of steady application, he had hitherto failed
in making any true start in life. He had at first been entered at
Oxford, with a view to the Church; but fearing that a clerical life
would be but little to his taste, he had left the university for the
pursuit of commerce. But in London he found that the city
counting-house had few attractions, and that the pleasures of the
town had many; the result was that in less than two years he
returned home, having acquired a plentiful supply of debts, and
little or no knowledge of business, or of any useful kind, beyond
the fact that he should never make a merchant. His present
idea of future employment was the army, and meanwhile he was
well contented to lead a life of ease and pleasure at Melcomb.





Momus. 85



Yet, great as had been the disappointment he had caused,
Charles Brent could not be said to have lost his father’s affection.
His good humour and the easy gaiety of his disposition made
him to be beloved as well at home as among all circles in which
he mixed; and even the victims of the jokes in which he too
constantly indulged found it a hard matter not to forgive him.
Of the merry party of young people of which he now formed the
life and soul, there was scarcely one who, sooner or later, did not
suffer from some of his wild pranks; yet all loved him, and were
deeply grieved when in after times his unstable character involved
him in a downward career, from which it were better that the
veil should not be withdrawn.

At the time of which I speak Charles was little more than
twenty years of age, and still younger were the two sisters, Alice
and Clarissa. Of these two young ladies I shall need to say
but little. They do not take a prominent place in the present
story, and there are circumstances in the life of the one last named
to which I shall find it necessary hereafter to devote a separate
chronicle.

In the family at Worsley Grange there were also two sons,
both of ages intermediate between those of the two Brents, and
after them had followed four daughters in rapid succession.
None of these young ladies were as yet married, although in the
graces of person and mind all of them might be said to possess
something more than an average share. Such, then, were the
two families of Heatherby and Brent.

II.—MOMUS.

srROM what has been premised of the intimacy which existed
Xe between a number of young people of such ages as theirs,
the reader cannot be ‘surprised if something more than friend-
ships should have developed themselves. Indeed, under the cir-
cumstances, it would rather have been surprising if nothing of
the nature of a love affair had come about; yet a casual observer











86 Fest and Earnest.

would have said that it was between those two young people of
whom it would least have been expected that such a thing actu-
ally occurred. It was, namely, between the grave, studious
Richard Brent, and Julia, the third of the Heatherby sisters.

There was, I say, some sort of inconsistency in this attach-
ment, for Richard Brent was fully nine years the lady’s senior,
and it was, moreover, little to be supposed that one of his gravity
of disposition would be captivated by the pretty, piquant little
maiden of seventeen; yet such was the fact. True, there was
as yet no declared attachment, and the two had perhaps scarcely
acknowledged its existence even to themselves; but there was
an obvious liking, a fondness on the part of each for the society
of the other, which, if not love, was so nearly akin to it, as only to
need time and circumstance to develop it into that passion, as
the slumbering fire may need air to fan it into flame.

Certain it is that the friendship which existed between them-—
for by that name it must as yet be called—was sufficient to cause
some sly jesting on the part of the brothers and sisters of both,
although it was not as yet emphatic enough to have originated
any rumour, as such connections are generally only too swift to
do, among neighbours and acquaintances. Certain also it is, that
it was rather owing to Julia’s influence than to any inherent love
of gaiety, that about this time Richard Brent was less constant at
his studies than formerly, and was more frequently to be found
taking part in the diversions of the other young people; it is also
noticeable that at this period he found it desirable to be often
taking walks or rides to Worsley, for which no less frivolous
pretexts could be found than that it was necessary for him to
carry some book or present to Julia Heatherby.

One of his presents must have especial notice. It was a small
rough dog, whose odd looks and evident intelligence induced him
to purchase it as an offering to his little mistress. Julia was
from home on a visit at the time, and before her return Richard
Brent had kept the animal long enough for it to have become
thoroughly attached to himself, not to mention that space was
also given for the completion of its education in the dozen absurd
tricks which he taught it.





Momus. 87



In due time Julia had returned to Worsley, and the presenta-
tion had been made; but after the little beast had fairly acknow-
ledged her as its lawful sovereign and mistress, it still reserved
a right of some sort of fealty to Richard, and, in default of his
appearance during two or three successive days at the Grange,
made a practice of taking a walk, purely on its own account,
across the hill. Arrived at Melcomb, Momus sought out his
friend, and after wagging its tail for what it adjudged to be the
correct length of time, returned in an orderly manner to Worsley.

If, instead of telling a tale of mere human joys and sorrows,
I were bent on writing—what were perhaps a not less worthy task
—a volume of anecdotes of dogs, | might be tempted to relate
how, when Momus failed in finding the object of his attentions
at the Manor House, he was accustomed, one by one, to visit all
Richard’s usual haunts in its vicinity, and other matters which
would go far to prove that the creature possessed far higher
mental powers than the blind impulses which we call instinct ;
but such digressions would be foreign to my story, to which I
must now return.

The regularity with which Momus paid his visits had once
induced Richard to make him the bearer of a sportive billet to
Julia, which she had answered by the same messenger in the
same mood; and as these missives had been safely carried to
their respective destinations, various letters had afterwards been
exchanged in the same manner. The reader must not mis-
understand the nature of this correspondence. These letters were
of the most trivial and innocent nature possible, and are not in
any way to be set down as clandestine love-letters ; for, as I have
said, no word of love had as yet been spoken between the two.

Such was the state of affairs when, one bright summer morn-
ing, little Julia was in the garden of Worsley Grange amusing
herself with the gambols of her little favourite. Presently it
occurred to her that she had last night finished the eighth volume
of the romance which Mr. Richard Brent-was then lending to her,
and that she was dying to make the acquaintance of the ninth
and last, and to know whether the hero and heroine were actually
married and lived happy ever afterwards.











88 Fest and Earnest.



_ She at once ran into the house and wrote a hasty note to her
friend and book-purveyor, begging him to send the wished-for
literature ; then, returning to the garden, she with some difficulty
induced Momus to let go the ball which, as a make-believe rat,
he was zealously worrying, and fastened the letter round his
neck ; after which she opened the garden gate, and bade him
trot away as fast as he could to Melcomb.

At a pace which showed that he had an exalted idea of the
importance of his mission, Momus took his way up Worsley
Banks and down through Melcomb Wood, never once allowing
himself to be allured into chasing the rabbits which scampered
across his path, or in any other way proving negligent of his
trust. If Miss Julia Heatherby’s letter was not duly delivered,
and if she had not the satisfaction of receiving on that very day
a full confirmation of her conjectures as to the future bliss of the
imaginary lovers in whom she was interested, I wish to have it
distinctly understood that it was not Momus who was in fault.

The accident which intervened was one quite unforeseen, and
scarcely to have been avoided by the messenger. This unlucky
accident was none other than the graceless Charles, who hap-
pened at the time to be strolling in the fields between the
Manor House and the wood, which were still called, by courtesy,
“The Park,” though they had long since ceased to be so in fact.
Charles was not a man gifted with any especial fondness for
dogs—of which deficiency Momus was well aware—and would
have passed him with the slightest “good morning,” in the shape
of a wag, of which his bushy tail was susceptible ; nor would
Charles have taken much notice of the comical little animal, had
not the letter round his neck attracted attention. But this blue-
tied packet was a phenomenon into which he thought it desirable
to inquire; and having coaxed Momus to him, he proceeded to
examine It.

The vulture has not a keener scent for carrion than had
Charles Brent for anything that might be made food for laughter.
Here was a letter from Julia Heatherby to his brother, and an
opportunity for mischief and mystification which must by no
means be neglected.













ENT STAONALL

PLAY-FELLOWS.

Nay. do not whine, play-fellow mine, nor bound and gambol free,
But lightly go toafriend we know, and bear him this from me,
Play-fellows true are | and you, together we sport to-day,
But my sport may yet be earnest, pet,while yours will be always play !



A MISSIVE IN JEST.











GRC oy

a







Momus. QI



Taking Momus beneath his arm, he carried him to his own
room, and there set himself to fabricate a letter in the place of
Julia’s poor little billet. To him this was not a difficult task ; for
among Charles Brent’s worthless accomplishments, a remarkable,
though I cannot say a fortunate, facility in imitating handwriting
was prominent. The letter which he penned was addressed in a
formal and ceremonious manner, and set forth that Miss Julia
Heatherby had attempted to read the volume sent to her by
Mr. Richard Brent, but had been astonished to find the matter
it contained to be such as no gentlewoman could think of perus-
ing. As she well knew the methodical habits of the sender, she
could not suppose that this matter could be referred to the score
of carelessness or accident, and therefore must decline any future
loans of books at his hands. If he had any satisfactory explana-
tion to offer, she begged him to do so; but otherwise, she desired
him to understand that their friendship must now be considered
as at an end.

This precious composition was tied up in the same manner
as the genuine epistle; and as Charles fastened it to the neck of
Momus, he was not a little tickled at the idea of the bewilder-
ment his brother would feel when he opened and read it.

Richard Brent was not of a suspicious temperament. He
perused and re-perused the letter, and was perplexed to a greater
degree than had ever entered into his brother's hopes; but
notwithstanding the preposterous nature of its contents, the idea
that it was a hoax never entered his mind. On the contrary, he
busied himself to explain the assumed incongruity. Such a thing
was possible as that, by mistake, a book might have been sent
which, to Miss Heatherby’s nice judgment, might seem objection-
able, although it was hard to see how such an error could have
happened; and this he admitted in the answer which he wrote,
at the same time announcing his intention of visiting the Grange
that very evening, at the hour of seven, and then fully unriddling
the whole enigma.

Alas! this answer was never destined to reach Julia
Heatherby. It was committed to Momus; but five minutes after
it had been indited, it was intercepted and read with infinite







92 Fest and Earnest.





relish by that scapegrace Charles, who gloried beyond measure
to find how completely his brother had been taken in.

Again his skill in caligraphy was put to the test; and this
time, owing to his greater familiarity with the writing to be
imitated, he produced a still greater triumph of deception than
the former. This letter ran as follows :—

“Dear Miss Jutta,—Your commands with respect to the
volume required find me much engaged upon important business,
or I should at once have ridden to Worsley to‘place it in your
hands ; and, more especially, as there are matters of far deeper
interest than books—at least to me—of which I am desirous to
speak with you. As these matters are of a nature to demand a
private and uninterrupted interview, will you allow me to ask
you, so far, to grant me a special favour, as to meet me at seven
o'clock this evening beneath the trees on Norbury Mounds? I
desire no answer to these hasty lines; but, under any circum-
stances, shall await your coming with impatience at the place and
time mentioned.—Your humble servant and admirer, R. B”

“ There,” said Charles complacently to himself, as he added
the initials, “if I am any judge of the extent of the silly girl’s
folly, this will bring her; and then, unless I am mistaken, there
will be a little more sport for me.” So saying, he affixed his
forgery to the neck of the unconscious Momus, and at last
allowed him to return in peace to Worsley Grange.

III.—ANTIQUARIAN MATTERS,

ree next proceeding of Mr. Charles Brent was, if in some
respects less objectionable than the last, still less dignified.
He dived into the remote back regions of the house, and there,
through the good offices of a kitchen-maid, with whom he was on
terms approaching to familiarity, obtained an earthen pipkin, of
the brown material which is, I believe, commonly known among
housewives as Nottingham-ware.

His first act, with regard to his newly-acquired property, was









Antiquarian Matters. 93



to take a convenient stone, and ruthlessly break it in pieces; he
then produced several halfpennies, and these, with the same in-
strument, he so hammered and battered as wholly to obliterate
every trace of the legends and devices which they had borne.
This done, he placed them in vinegar, and shortly had the satis-
faction of seeing them assume that delicate green tinge so highly
prized by the collector of antiquities. The motive for these
acts may, perhaps, seem somewhat obscure to the reader, but
suffice it to say that they were undertaken in the interests of
science.

Putting the battered halfpennies and fragments of pipkin in
his pockets, he now took his way to Norbury Mounds, a spot to
which some allusion has already been made. On the summit of
a considerable natural elevation, a lofty artificial bank of earth,
surrounded by a deep ditch and rampart of the same material,
had at some remote age been thrown up; and the whole was
now overshadowed by a noble growth of forest trees. These
remains of antiquity, though within a short distance of Melcomb
Wood, were situated upon the Worsley estate, and were, indeed,
much nearer to the Grange than to the Manor House.

In one of the embankments a portion of earth had been dis-
placed on the previous day by Charles and his friends, the young
Heatherbys, in digging out a badger; and in this loose soil he
deposited, and carefully covered over, the bulk of his ceramic
and numismatic treasures, reserving one specimen only of each.
These last he plentifully plastered with the yellow earth of the
mound, and having wrapped them in paper, strolled down towards
Melcomb Rectory.

The rector of Melcomb at that time was the Rev. Mr.
Septimus Howker, a bachelor of rather more than middle age,
and a man who affected, if he did not possess, no small amount
of learning in antiquarian matters. He was, I say, a bachelor;
but it was rather his misfortune than his fault that he was still
unmarried. He was.not averse to the society of ladies; far from
it; but there was in his tall, stooping, and ungainly figure, and
slovenly exterior, coupled with a happy knack of absence of mind,
and a faculty for never saying the right thing at the proper time,









94 Fest and Earnest.



a something so uncouth and provocative of laughter, as con-
stantly to have caused the miscarriage of his matrimonial
attempts. He had many amiable qualities, as everyone admitted,
and no doubt many ladies might have been found in the neigh-
bourhood who would gladly have shared with him the proceeds
of the rich livings of Melcomb and Worsley; but, like an ill-
trained hawk, he had ever been prone to fly at such game as was
beyond his reach, and had thus secured to himself a series of
disappointments, much to the amusement of his neighbours and
his own discomfiture. But he had comfort under his sorrows, and
after each successive fall he returned with fresh ardour to his
antiquarian researches.

The little-appreciated attentions of this divine had recently
been directed towards our bright, fair-haired little friend, Julia
Heatherby ; by whom, it will not be too much to say, he was
utterly detested—a fact of which, as the reader may infer from
the little that has been said of his character, he was probably
the last person to note the existence. Charles Brent, however,
who was quick enough in observing anything which could be
made conducive to raising a laugh, saw exactly to what extent
his friend Julia and the parson affected each other, and looked
upon them as proper subjects for his mischief-making operations.

The abode of this learned gentleman partook largely of the
oddity of its owner. It was an unarranged museum—a perfect
lumber-room of objects of antiquity, or things which had been
foisted upon him as such. For in making his collections, it must
be admitted that he had, like many other collectors, often allowed
his enthusiasm to outrun his judgment, and the bumpkins of his
own and the neighbouring parishes had sold him much old metal
and leather which had far less respectable claims to antiquity
than their own Sunday suits; moreover, if the truth must be
spoken, our friend Charles had on various occasions swelled the
collection with riches of a highly apocryphal character.

The savant was in his study, engaged on a paper to be read
before a society of his brother antiquarians—“ On the best method
of restoring Stonehenge, and the propriety of protecting that
invaluable monument from the destructive effects of the weather









Antiquarian Matters. 95



by a slated roof”—a performance which was afterwards ad-
mitted to show much ingenuity and imaginative power.

Charles Brent apologised for interrupting his literary labours ;
he should not, he said, have ventured to distract his attention
from a work of so much moment to the scientific world, had it
‘not been that he had something of importance to communicate ;
but discoveries had been made at Norbury Mounds which, he
was sure, would be of interest to him.

Had the atéollens aurem of the Rev. Mr. Howker been more
largely developed, he would have pricked up his ears; as it was,
he did so by a figure of speech merely. “ My dear young friend,”
he said, rising from his seat, “I feel an especial interest, | may
say a most peculiar interest, in all that concerns Norbury Mounds.
My own theory of the origin of the earthworks and the deriva-
tion of the name is the one which must, eventually, override all
others. As to my friend Billon’s improbable conjectures

“As you are well aware,” broke in Charles, who saw with
dismay that the whole story, which he knew by heart, was com-
ing—“as you are well aware, I have long been a convert to
your own more plausible view. But the discovery of which I
speak may be one which will either confirm or refute it, On
removing a portion of one of the mounds in the pursuit of a
badger, we have met with what appear to be the remains of a
rudely constructed urn, once probably a receptacle for coins.
I have taken care that the deposit should be disturbed as little
as possible, as I well know that the precious fragments will be
less exposed to injury if removed from their resting-place by the
practised hand of an antiquary.”

“ Most true, most true,” said the savant ; “irreparable damage
has many times been done by the ignorant and careless, and
nothing can be more desirable than to consider an object 27 sz¢z.
But let us see what you have brought.”

“A fragment of the urn, and a solitary coin,” said Charles,
producing his potsherd and battered. halfpenny. They were
closely scrutinised by the antiquary.

A smile of intense satisfaction beamed over his lean features.
“Yes,” he said at length, “these priceless relics do indeed















96 Fest and Earnest.





wonderfully bear out my theory. Formerly it was said that
these mounds were Roman—every earthwork was called Roman
by our ignorant predecessors. ‘That the mounds were not Roman,
this pottery and coin bear witness, for they are not Roman.
Then the ingenious Mr. Billon came down and broached his
theory, that Norbury was a contraction of Normanbury, and
showed the mounds to be the remains of a Norman castle.
There was not a tittle of real evidence in his favour, high as his
name stands; and the tradition that a Normandy pippin was
found growing in a hedge near the spot, of which he makes so
much, can have no weight except with the vulgar.”

“ None,” said Charles, gravely.

“ None whatever; and now this coin will enable me trium-
phantly to refute him. If I mistake not, this ancient piece is
copper. Now in Norman days we had no copper money in
England, nor, indeed, till those of the second Charles. Conse-
quently, it cannot be Norman.”

“ A better negative proof need not be wished,” said Charles,
with a slow, approving movement of the head.

“No,” continued the antiquary, warming with his subject;
“nor a better positive one on my own side. I have long been
convinced that Norbury Mounds were thrown up as the tomb
and monument of some Norse king or chieftain, probably some
leader of the Norwegian mercenaries employed by Ethelred
against their natural enemies, the Danes. Nor-bury, the Norse-
man’s burying-place—the name alone is enough to carry convic-
tion; yet if more proof is wanted, here we have it (pointing to
the peculiar indented ornament, common to the ware of which
the fragment was formed). Here is a small, though a very small,
portion of an inscription. It is not in Latin, it is not in
Norman-French, it is not in Anglo-Saxon; consequently, it must
be in Runic, and of Norwegian origin, though I regret that I am
not able to read that character with fluency. By much the same
line of reasoning we might establish an identical origin for the
coin. They are both conclusive evidence of the soundness of
my theory. My dear young friend, your visit has indeed given
me a triumph and a pleasure.”





The Rendezvous. 97



“ Nothing could have delighted me more than to have done
so,’ said Charles—-as was indeed the fact—‘“ but further dis-
coveries will repay our search. When shall I have the gratifica-
tion of examining the mounds with you, and pointing out the
exact site of the deposit ?”

“ At once, at once,” replied the antiquary, again rising; “in
so important a matter it is desirable that no time should be lost.”

“ Unfortunately,” returned Charles, “I shall have pressing
business which will occupy me for several hours; but if you could
be at the mounds this evening, say at seven, I would then under-
take to show you something worth the seeing.”

“fit cannot be earlier, I must be contented with the time you
propose,” said the enthusiastic Howker, sitting down with a sigh
of disappointment; and with that he returned to his archeological
treatise; whilst the traitor Charles, with much satisfaction, took
his way to the Manor House.



IV.—-THE RENDEZVOUS.

“‘YULIA HEATHERBY was not a little astonished when she re-
‘J ceived the letter which the reader has already had the pleasure
of reading, though I will not undertake to say that she was alto-
gether displeased with it. Considering the footing upon which
Richard Brent stood with regard to herself, it seemed to her that
this note, making, as it did, an assignation, was somewhat pre-
sumptuous. Had she been a little more experienced, and a little
less kind-hearted, she might perhaps have treated this request as
an impertinence, and left it unnoticed. But little Julia was very
young, and she would not willingly have hurt the feelings of any
one, least of all those of Mr. Richard Brent, for whom she
admitted a very decided liking. Moreover—for why should the
truth be concealed—she was not, perhaps, without some curiosity
to hear what the subject might be on which he desired to speak
with her; of its nature she could only form one plausible con-
jecture, and if she were right, it would not be a theme wholly







98 Fest and Earnest.

displeasing to her. In short, when evening came, Miss Julia
Heatherby, with no other attendant than the faithful Momus,
might have been seen tripping up Worsley Bank, and entering
the shady grove which overshadowed the slopes of Norbury
Mounds.

The idea that Richard would not be there and waiting for her
was one which had never occurred to her mind; she was not a
little surprised, therefore, to find that no human being save her-
self was near the mounds. In no very good humour, either
with him or with herself, she wandered round the spot for some
time. At last an approaching figure was indistinctly seen
through the trees. It was evidently making for the entrench-
ments; it drew near, and then, to her utter discomfiture, she
discovered that it was not Richard Brent, but the Rev. Septimus
Howker.

Julia’s heart sank within her. She would gladly have taken
to her legs, and ran away like a very Daphne, had not good
manners forbidden it. Yet her greeting to him was the coldest
she could assume; she had, she said, already extended her walk
too far, and must at once hasten homewards. .

Simple Julia! If she supposed that her reverend admirer
could by anything she might do or say be brought to see that
his society was not desired, she was altogether mistaken. Per-
ceptive powers for such purposes were altogether absent from
his composition ; and he clung faster than a leech. At the sight —
of this young lady his antiquarian ardour had entirely given
place to feelings of gallantry. This was an opportunity for
winning Miss Julia’s good graces which was not to be neglected.
Here they were among those very remains of antiquity upon
which he, and he alone, was the great authority ; and now was the
time to fill her with admiration for his learning and powers of
mind.

Deluded being! By standing on his head, or by turning somer-
saults, he would have had an equally good chance of winning her
favour, had he but possessed the grace to know it. Fortunately,
or unfortunately, he had not; and so dilated on his pet theory
of the origin of the mounds, demolishing his opponents, and



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Fe One etry UMTS


THE MESSENGER.

FIAPPY BIRD forth winging
_ Through the sunny sky,
To thy far home bringing
My forlorn good-bye,
Gladly,.dladly thou dost go,
Thou, the messenger of woe!

Better thus uncaring
Climb thy gusty road,
Why shouldst thou be sharing .
In thy bitter load !
Who could wisn glad nature’ glee
Saddened by our misery!



A LOOKED-FOR MESSENGER,






A Samily Chronicle

ARRANGED FROM THE PAPERS OF RICHARD BRENT, ESQ, |

SOMETIME OF MELCOMB

BY

FE. SCARLET LE (POTTER

AUTIIOR OF ‘*THE VOLSUNG TALE,” ETC.

WITH SIX ILLUSTRATIONS, IN GOLD AND COLORS



London:

MARCUS WARD & CO., 67 &




68, CHANDOS STREET, COVENT GARDEN
NEW YORK : POTT, YOUNG, & CO., COOPER UNION, FOURTH AVENUE
1875

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MELCOMB MANOR |
















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PAGE

PROLOGUE, . : , ; : : - : CNM
MISTRESS ALICE MASSENGER—
THe Falcon AND THE DovVE, : ; : i ‘
InMATES AND NEIGHBOURS AT MELCOMB, . ’ Bhat)
RivaLs, .. , ; 2 : : 4 : 15
A SYRATAGEM IN LOVE, : ‘ ! : : oi AG
Wuatr FaTHER OSWALD SAW ABROAD, . : s 4 20
Wuar FATHER OSWALD saw AT HomE, é 4 : IM com
Tactics, . . : ! : : : ; 25
A PARTING, . é ‘ 5 y : ‘ Loa
DANGER, . : ; 4 a : 3 3 31
. News FROM THE MARCHES, . A : : ' HN
Tue Hour or NEED, . : ; : 4 ! 37
REVELATIONS, - : : , . : 3 - 39
SUNSHINE, . : i F i i i x 42
INTERLOGUE L., ea : 4 ; 5 : : - 44
THE GREEN HUNTSMAN—
AFLOAT, i y : $ : 5 : : 46
A Court GALLANT, . 4 i p ; mt ‘NGI
A New Love, : : A ; “ : 54
Tue OLp Love, : : ie ; . 58
Tue SroneE Huntinc Lopcr, . Lie : : 60
PARLEY, : : : : : : , . 65
War DECLARED, . i ; . ; : dH 69
A SHOT WITH THE CROSS-BOW, ‘ " : senha



A


Contents.



INTERLOGUE IL, F .

JEST AND EARNEST—
Two Houses,
Momus,
ANTIQUARIAN MATTERS,
THE RENDEZVOUS, .
A FAtse SCENT,
FORSAKEN, .
A Love TEsT, .
SHADOWS OF THE NIGHY, -
Mornine,

INTERLOoGUE IIL,

| THe KerEper’s Srory,
A Mipnicut Warcu,
THe Mystery UNSOLVED,
A Lovers’ MEETING,
FATHER AND DAUGHTER,
RENUNCIATION,

EPILOGUE,

CHROMOGRAPHS.



A Looken-ror MESSENGER (p. 37),
More THAN Kin,

Less tHan KIND,

A Missive IN JEst,

A Lovers’ MEETING,

Tue Last Hore Gong,

THE GHOST OF THE HAUNTED HOLLOW—

*

Frontispiece.

PAGE

79

- IO

105

108

Tit

. 114

116

. 118

I22

. 126

130

- 135

140

Sy)

48
60
88

130

- 144




MELCOMB MANOR.



PROLOGUE.

g|HE twilight is gathering round me as I am sitting in
the great wainscoted parlour of my old manor-house,
Melcomb Manor. Through the dim quarries in the
mullioned windows, I can see the leaves drifting down-
wards, now faster and now more slowly, as the pelting rain and
the cold November wind come driving by. I am alone here,
quite alone, for I am a widower and childless; so it is not
strange that at times like this I should be troubled with gloomy
thoughts.

“The wind has torn great branches from the old trees, for
they are grown hollow and decayed through age; and in the
old house the walls lean aslant, and big cracks have opened.
What does it matter? Iam an old man, and when I am gone
the old place will pass to a new name and strange owners.
There have been Brents of Melcomb for four centuries and more,
but I shall be the last of the name.

I say, “ Let ruin come, and what does it matter 2?” Yet I love
this old place better than all the world beside. Well-nigh my
whole life has been spent in this house. I have seen some joy
in it, and when sorrow came it found me here. I have, years ago,
ceased caring to mix with mankind, and my griefs have made me








8 Melcomb Manor.

cling more closely to these familiar walls. So it is that now,
when I must needs find occupation to drive away the thoughts
that vex me, I have resolved to write the histories of some of
those that have lived here—by-gone members of my house, with
whose lives I am familiar from family papers and traditions. Of
nothing else could I so much care to write; and, who knows,
there may be some who will care to read what I shall have
written.

The Manor of Melcomb, as our oldest charter sets forth; was
anciently a part of the possessions of the great Earl of Leicester ;
but after his forfeiture, it was, upon the tenure of a man-at-
arms to do duty in the Welsh Marches, granted to one Hugh
Massenger, in reward for services done to the king at the battle
of Evesham and elsewhere, during the Barons’ Wars.

It was by the above-named esquire that the first house at
Melcomb was founded, and some remains of the buildings which -
he raised are still to be traced out by those curious in such
matters; though most part of the dwelling, as it now stands, is of
later times. This earliest house would seem to have been in no
way a place of strength, but, for the age in which it was built, it
must have been a fair and goodly abode. From Hugh Massenger
the manor passed to his only son, also named Hugh.

According to an ancient record among our muniments, this
second Hugh Massenger had, by his wife Dame Eleanor, five
sons and one daughter, of whom Reginald, the eldest, was, by
misadventure of Stephen, the second, slain with a birding-bolt ;
whereupon Stephen went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land,
and there died. Shortly afterwards, the three younger sons—
Ralph, Henry, and Walter—all perished in the wars of those
times; the two last, Henry and Walter, being slain in one day,
both of them together, like the sons of Eli the Priest. Whereby
it came to pass, that in his old age this Hugh Massenger had no
issue left to him but his youngest child, Alice ; and it is of her
that I shall first have to write more at large.






MISTRESS ALICE MASSENGER.

I.—THE FALCON AND THE DOVE.

'HE afternoon sun was shining brightly, and Mistress
Alice Massenger had stepped out into her pleasaunce,
that she might feed her doves. Although Mistress
Alice had just reached an age at which pleasure is most
keenly relished, her life as yet had not been one to afford her
much variety of enjoyment. For since the evil news had been
brought to Melcomb that her last remaining brother was dead,
her mother, Dame Eleanor, had sunk into hopeless weakness
both of body and mind; so that between frequent attendance
in her mother’s chamber, and the charge of the household,
which had now fallen upon her, the life of Mistress Alice was
one rather of duty than of pleasure. Hence it was that she
turned the more lovingly to such quiet, homely delights as her
flowers and her doves.

Thus Mistress Alice was well pleased to watch the gentle
birds as they flocked around her, and daintily gathered up the
scattered grain; and again, when satisfied with their meal, they
‘rose above her into the air, whirling in wider and wider flights.
But her pleasure was soon to give place to alarm, for as she
watched, a falcon darted upwards from among the trees, and
swooped down upon the terrified pigeons. It was in vain that
they huddled together and flew homewards for protection; the






IO Melcomb Manor.

hawk followed, striking ae ‘nae ae most eaened
favourite—bearing it to the ground within the bounds of the
garden, and almost at the feet of its mistress.

If fair Mistress Alice Massenger had been a bolder damsel,
she would at once have tried to free her pet from its captor; but
Alice was not bold, and she feared the formidable beak and
claws of the falcon ; so she did what seemed to her to be the first
and most natural thing to do—that is to say, she screamed for
help, and somewhat loudly.

It may be that she did so in a louder voice than was needful,
for help was nearer at hand than she had supposed. Almost at
the moment, a young man leaped ever the low fence of the
pleasaunce, and ran quickly towards the dove, which still
struggled in the falcon’s clutch. He would have proceeded more
deliberately, but Mistress Alice prayed him to save her favourite ;
and as he could see no other ready way of releasing it alive, he
dealt the falcon a blow on the head with the hawking-pole which
he carried, that laid it motionless. Then taking up the bleeding
pigeon, he handed it tenderly to its mistress.

For a few moments the whole thoughts of the maiden were
given to her wounded pet; but though at first it lay motionless
in her hands, and was somewhat ruffled and torn, she soon saw
that its fright was greater than its hurt ; and she then turned that
she might offer her thanks to the stranger who had rescued it.

The young man was kneeling over ‘the falcon, as though
trying to bring it back to life. He was not, as Mistress Alice
thought, an ill-favoured youth, although his face was brown from
sun and wind, and his dress, which was such as might have been
worn by a huntsman or falconer, bore the marks of long travel
and hard service. The look of anxiety with which he regarded
the bird convinced her that he must have been its owner, and
that it was dearly prized. As the lady made these observations,
he rose from his fruitless labour, for such it was; the falcon
was dead.

“JT am greatly bounden to you, good youth,” she said, “for
the life of my dove; yet I fear me that you have rescued it at
too great a cost to yourself.”








Lhe Falcon and the Dove. II

“ As to that, fair lady,” he replied, “I have, indeed, lost as
good a falcon as any in this realm, though she were but a falcon-
lanier; and in her I may well say that I have lost my one
possession and my only friend.”

“Alas!” said Mistress Alice; “if it were thus, better by far
that the dove had been slain.”

“Not so, fair lady; I have but paid the price of my own
heedlessness in letting my falcon escape, by mischance, from my
fist; and for the rest you owe me no thanks, for I ‘did only what
every true man is bounden to do for every damsel who needs
service, let the loss to himself thereby be what it may.”

From the humble dress of the stranger youth, Alice had
scarcely looked for so much of the spirit of chivalry from his lips
as was shown in this speech; but it pleased her, nevertheless.
She only answered him, however, by repeating her thanks, and
asking if there were no way in which she could do him some
service in requital for the death of his hawk.

“T am,” he replied, “as you doubtless see, a stranger in these
parts. My birth-place is in the north country, and the name by
which I am known is Giles Burston. As to my history, it is one
but too often heard in these evil times. My kindred, as reason
would, have followed the fortunes of their liege lord, and have
suffered in his ruin; so that I have in my own country neither
home nor friends left to me. I now seek to gain service as a
huntsman or a falconer with any lord or gentleman who will give
meat and shelter in return for a strong arm and a willing heart.
It was for this purpose that I was making my way to Melcomb,
when my hawk broke her jesses, and I followed her hither.”

“Jt is well,” said Mistress Alice; “I will speak for you to
* my father.”

The young man bowed, and retired to make his way by the
more ordinary entrance to Melcomb Manor.








12 Mistress Alice Massenger.





II.—INMATES AND NEIGHBOURS AT MELCOMB.

N re-entering the house, Mistress Alice lost no time in

seeking the great hall, for it was there that her father was
always to be found at that hour of the day. The part of the
house at Melcomb in which this was situated has long since °
given place to rooms better suited to the habits of later ages.
It was a long and tolerably wide and lofty apartment, the
timbered roof being open to the ridge-tree. The wide fire-place
was innocent of a chimney, for, as I have been given to under-
stand, that curious invention was not introduced till some fift
years later. Across the upper end of the hall was the table of
dais, reserved for the master of the house, his family, and his
more important guests; whilst the lower part of the room was
common to the inferior members of the household.

By reason of his age, the old lord of Melcomb had long since
ceased from taking any part in military matters, or in the more
active business of life. His mornings, when the season warranted,
were generally still occupied with field sports; but after the
noontide dinner, he rarely left his seat on the dais, but passed
his time with the flagon, and such company as fortune threw in
his way.

When Mistress Alice entered to relate the adventure of the
hawk and the dove, and to make her request to her father, she
found him in conversation with the two individuals who at that
period formed his most ordinary society. Neither of them
could be called young men, although the united ages of the two
would not have greatly exceeded that of their host.

One of these was Sir John Bigod, whose lands and castle of
Hilworth Bigod were so near to Melcomb, that he might be said
to be Master Hugh Massenger’s nearest neighbour. Yet till quite
recently he had been but little known to the old esquire; for
Sir John, who bore the reputation of being a hardy soldier, had
all his life been busied in the many wars of those times, and had
of late years held divers commands in The Marches, under the
great Gilbert Fitz-Turold, where he was said to mix with the








Inmates and Neighbours at Melcomd. 13



native Welsh “like salt among eels.” But there was now some
short space of quiet in those parts, and Sir John had retired to
recreate himself for a while on his patrimonial estate.

Thus it came that the ancient lord of Melcomb had but little
sure knowledge of the knight’s past life. Rumour, indeed, told
many things of it which it was not good to hear; but to these
Hugh Massenger gave small heed, knowing well that in those
days of evil deeds and misrule no man who took an active part
in public affairs could escape without blame, or altogether with-
out deserving it. For the rest, he was by no means disposed to
be displeased with the friendly overtures of a neighbour so much
more powerful than himself.

There were, indeed, some who were ready to affirm that Sir
John Bigod’s friendship was not altogether disinterested, but who
hinted that he coveted the fair lands of Melcomb, and designed
to add them to his own by a union with their heiress. If such
were the case, the desire was not an unreasonable one on his
part, for the two manors, throughout their whole length, were
separated only by a small stream, and to no one else could the
domain of Melcomb have been so valuable.

Master Massenger’s second companion was an ecclesiastic.
The scheme of the modest household at Melcomb Manor was
not supposed to include a chaplain; yet Father Oswald had for
months past been a resident there, and had performed many of
the duties proper to such a functionary. Some two years before
the time of which I am speaking, the worthy father had sought
the neighbouring priory of Halliford as a retreat till certain
political troubles in which he was involved should have blown
over, and had afterwards found a shelter at Melcomb. It is true
that an amnesty had now been granted to all those engaged in
the Earl of Lancaster’s affair, who had not already suffered ; but
still, the good priest seemed in no haste to leave his new friends
for the country whence his old ones had been removed by the
executioner or by forfeiture. At Melcomb he found himself duly
appreciated. No small portion of his time was required to direct
Dame Eleanor’s devotions ; and he was quite ready to share in
the sports, or to take a moderate part in a carouse with her




14 Mistress Alice Massenger.

husband, who found him at all times a jovial and pleasant com-
panion. Yet under an easy exterior Father Oswald carried an
active and able brain, and one that had been found of no mean
service in the plottings of his northern friends.

The presence of the worthy priest was in no way unpleasing
to Mistress Alice, who knew well that in him she might always
count upon a staunch ally. But she could well have dispensed
with that of the knight of Hilworth, towards whom she had
already formed a stronger feeling of dislike than she could have
defended by valid reasons ; and this feeling was heightened by
the dread that he might ere long become her suitor, and, if so,
a suitor whom it would be at the same time impossible to accept
and difficult to refuse.

So Alice told her little story as briefly as might be; and after
praying her father to interest himself on behalf of the stranger
whose service to her had been attended by so sad a misfortune
to himself, she at once withdrew.

Perhaps some thought of his own past sorrows touched the
heart of the priest, and inclined him to feel for those of the young
wanderer, as well as a desire to further the wishes of Mistress
Alice. “Alas!” he said, “for these evil times! Many there
be of noble blood and gentle breeding who are now homeless ;
it may be that the youth is one of these, and that he suffers not
by his own default. Let him not pass away unheard.”

“ Even as you say, Sir Priest,” answered the knight; these
are evil and lawless times, when outlaws and strong thieves do
violence throughout the land, and none check them; and when
no man knows whether the stranger who seeks hospitality at
nightfall may not be the spy to let in a band of plunderers at mid-
night. Therefore, I counsel our host to have a care in whatever
he does in this matter.”

As Sir John Bigod finished his admonition, young Burston
was ushered into the hall. He had little, to say of himself more
than we have already heard; but his face and bearing pleased
the old esquire, and when he received a signal to retire, it was
with the understanding that he was. engaged to remain at
Melcomb in the capacity of falconer.








Rivals. TS



“He is none of this country,” said Father Oswald, when
Burston was seated out of ear-shot, at the lower end of the hall ;
“and yet there is that in the looks of the youth which recalls
some face I have known well, though whose face it may be I
cannot say.”

Sir John did not speak; yet if he had given expression to the
thought that was at that moment passing through his mind, he
would have used well-nigh the same words.

III.—RIVALS.

{SILES BURSTON, when established in his new post, did not
find its duties irksome, nor did time hang heavily on his hands,
and that for a certain reason not difficult to understand. Ever
since the adventure which had marked his arrival at Melcomb,
he had felt a deep interest in Mistress Alice ; and this interest
was in no danger of dying out, since, though at the distance
imposed upon him by his inferior position, he now had oppor-
tunities of seeing her constantly. In this he was favoured by
his occupation, for in fair weather Mistress Alice frequently rode
a-hawking with her father, and on these occasions Burston was
often able to display the same spirit of chivalrous devotion in her
service which had won her notice at their first interview. When
their sport was followed upon the uplands, the active falconer
was always ready to guide her palfrey in safety through the
morass or along the shelving path; or when they pursued the
larger game of the river, he did not hesitate to plunge, hawking-
pole in hand, into the stream whenever a ford had to be taken,
that he might lead him carefully past the dangerous pools. Nor
was his gallantry altogether unacceptable to Mistress Alice, who, :
retired as was her life, was not unaffected by that taste for
romance which characterised the more polished society of the
age, and was therefore quite ready to appreciate such conduct.
Indeed, there was much, both in the person and character of
young Burston, calculated to gain the regard of such a maiden;






I

6 Mistress Alice Massenger.

and it is quite possible that the social difference between them,
which would, under ordinary circumstances, in those days, have
formed an insuperable obstacle to any feeling of interest on the
part of the lady, might in this case serve rather to arouse it, since
Alice could not but infer from the language and bearing of the
youth that he must have been born to a higher station than that
which he now occupied.

It is certain also that, inadvertently, Sir John Bigod was a
means of strengthening any interest that Mistress Alice might
feel in Giles Burston. In those days, as is well known, con-
siderations of policy or material advantage were more studied in
the arrangement of matches than the inclinations of young ladies ;
and Sir John had supposed that, after securing the father to his
interests, the daughter would comply, as a matter of course.
But although Hugh Massenger readily admitted that the match
would be advantageous and pleasing to himself, he had too tender
an affection for his one remaining child—the daughter of his old
age—to consent in any way to exert his authority in enforcing her
compliance. Thus the knight found that the success of his suit
must wholly depend upon his efforts to please the lady herself ;
and as his gallantry savoured rather of the camp than of the
court, it was little pleasing to a maiden of Alice’s disposition,
and she naturally turned from him towards one who in many
respects contrasted with him so favourably.

It was after a visit to Melcomb, during which Ae stout
knight of Hilworth had been compelled to admit to himself that
his suit made but sorry progress, that he resolved upon a notable
scheme of wooing, which will be seen to bring about important
results in the course of this chronicle. “ By ’r Lady!” he

cogitated, as he rode homewards through the deep mire caused
by the heavy rains, and turned over in his mind the events of the
day—* By ’r Lady! the pretty fool is too nice to lend an ear to
a plain, blunt soldier. May the fiend take the clerk who taught
her to read! She hath crammed her silly brain-pan with Lays
of Provence and Gestes of the old Bretons, and must needs have
some Sir Tristram or Sir Lancelot to woo her with his vagaries.
Well, be it so; an old soldier is not easily beaten from the

eae








4 Stratagem in Love. 17

field; I have seen somewhat of stratagems in war, and, if need
be, can try one in love. This Damsel Adventurous shall have
her perils, and the good knight Sir John Bigod shall be her
rescue ; and this, methinks, should go far with such a maiden
as my Mistress Alice.”

The politic knight was so taken with the humour of his own
device, that it held him in laughter for full a bowshot’s space, by
which time he came to the banks of the little river which he must
needs ford. He found the stream so swollen with the rains that he
was wet to the girdle, and his mirth was exchanged for curses long
before he had reached the opposite side. “I vow to St. Chris-
topher,” he exclaimed, as he spurred along the road for Hilworth,
“that when the banks on both sides are mine, I will build a
bridge over this accursed ford!” As this history is unfolded, we
shall see how soon Sir John had cause to keep his vow, or
whether occasion arose for it ever to be kept at all.

IvV.—A STRATAGEM IN LOVE.

N the course of his career, Sir John Bigod had engaged in
many undertakings for which, far more than for the present
innocent manceuvre, secret and unscrupulous agents were indis-
pensable,and he had not much difficultyin choosing from among his
followers three persons who were properly qualified for carrying
out his plans. These men, disguised as outlaws, were to seize and
carry off Mistress Alice, at such a time and by such a way as Sir
John should appoint them ; when they were to be met by himself,
and, after some show of resistance, put to flight. Of the real
alarm which such an adventure might cause to a tender maiden
the rough soldier took but little heed, whilst he relied much upon
her gratitude, and perhaps upon her admiration for his prowess,
for advancing him in her favour; nor did he doubt but that his
intimacy with the family at Melcomb, and his knowledge of their
movements, would soon enable him to fix a time for putting his
project in execution.








18 Mistress Alice Massenger.

Such an opportunity was afforded not long afterwards, by one
of those hawking excursions upon which the old esquire carried
his daughter with him. Sir John had himself been asked to
attend them, but he alleged business as an excuse for not being
present during the earlier part of the day, and held out a prospect
of joining them at a later hour.

In accordance with the early habits of the age, the old lord
of Melcomb and his daughter rode forth at sunrise, and pursued
their sport with varying success throughout the morning, their
only attendant being Giles Burston, who, for the better discharge
of his office, was on foot. Noon drew near, and as Sir John
Bigod had not yet presented himself, the party turned home-
wards. Leaving the tract of open country over which they had
hawked, they had already reached the skirts of the wood through
which lay the direct road to Melcomb, when game was sprung,
and a tiercelet was cast off for a final flight. The quarry was
struck far off in the open field; and whilst the old esquire rode
after it, and the falconer followed to reclaim the hawk, Mistress
Alice, who was by this time somewhat tired, remained under the
pleasant shade of the trees.

The falcon was hooded, and the partridge secured, and the
sportsmen came leisurely back to the spot from which they had
started ; but no Mistress Alice was now to be seen.

“ My daughter is wearied, and has turned homewards before
us,” said the old man; and with that he rode briskly forwards in
the direction of Melcomb, leaving the falconer to follow more
slowly.

In another instant Giles Burston would have taken the same
track, but at that moment he observed footprints and marks on
the trampled grass, which arrested his attention. There were
clearly the traces of two or three men close to the hoof-marks of
the palfrey, and equally fresh; and as the fears of a lover are
easily roused, these filled him with suspicion and alarm. Fol-
lowing the traces, which was a matter of difficulty, he had just con-
vinced himself that they did not turn down the path for Melcomb,
but diverged into one leading for a considerable distance through
an unfrequented part of the woods, when a smothered scream






A Stratagem in Love. 19

from the same direction reached his ear, and he at once dashed
forward at his swiftest speed. It was a narrow, winding track,
between thick trees and underwood ; and Burston pushed on, for
some time seeing nothing of tlfe objects of his pursuit. At length
he bounded up a hill, and sprang with still fleeter footsteps: down
the opposite slope; and now a sharp turn in the path brought
him suddenly upon them.

Mistress Alice was, indeed, in evil plight. Two varlets, in
the Kendal-green suits which formed the common livery of
outlaws, and with hoods drawn over their faces, guarded her on
either side, whilst a third led and urged along her palfrey.
Giles Burston saw this, and was upon them with his hawking-
pole at once.

The falconer was strong and active, and laid lustily about him ;
and after a few blows were exchanged, his opponents took to
their heels. To speak truth, having been only engaged to run
away, they had no special inducement to stay for the hard knocks
which were just then being freely dealt, and chose rather at once
to leave him in quiet possession of the field.

He was now able to turn to Mistress Alice, and it was in
good time that he did so, for she had fainted, and, but for his
ready help, would have fallen to the ground. He lifted her
gently from the saddle, and laid her upon the bank close at hand,
whilst a little rill, which came leaping down among the bushes
hard by, supplied him with water to sprinkle upon her face.
In a few minutes he had the satisfaction of seeing signs of
returning life.

To Alice Massenger, who, unlike ourselves, knew nothing of
Sir John’s romantic plot, this jocular abduction had all the terrors
of a real one; she could not tell to what perils she might not
be exposed in the hands of these miscreants, and she made
known her thankfulness to her deliverer in no reluctant terms.
Emboldened by her gratitude, the young falconer courteously
acknowledged his sense of it by kissing her hand. The homage
was not ungraciously received; and what wonder if, forgetting
every motive of prudence which might under other circumstances
have closed his lips, and being conscious only of the strangeness




20) Mistress Alice Massenger.



of the situation, the loneliness of the spot, and the fact that, for
the moment, all barriers between himself and the lady of his heart
were broken down, he should have poured into her ears all the
. story of his love, and that he should have found a willing listener ?
The deep, cool, mid-day shadow of the woods, the mossy bank,
and the sparkling rivulet, formed an admirable background to a
love scene ; but they were probably quite unnoticed by the young
pair who there plighted troth.

Giles Burston said many things; yet he did not, as Alice
doubtless expected, give any frank account of his birth or
parentage. On this score he only said, somewhat proudly,
“Before I claim my bride, I shall prove that in birth, at least, I
am not unworthy of her ;” and with this his mistress was content.
The kiss which sealed this compact was not impressed on the
lady’s hand, and the ceremony was scarcely completed when they
were startled by the trampling of horse-hoofs on the soft turf.
They looked up and saw, slowly riding down the path towards
them, Sir John Bigod.



V.—WHAT FATHER OSWALD SAW ABROAD.

ANY one might have supposed that a spot more secure from
intrusion than the one described could scarcely be found ;
and yet, as chance would have it, the knight of Hilworth Bigod
was not the only spectator of this tender scene. From a greater
distance, it is true, and somewhat indistinctly by reason of
intervening branches, yet clearly enough to convey something of
its import, it had also been observed by that worthy ecclesiastic,
Father Oswald.

Early on that day the good father had marched off, staff in
hand, over the hills, to pay a morning visit to his good friends,
the brethren of Halliford Priory ; there to discuss certain points
of discipline, and, by the way, certain horns of that strong ale for
which the establishment in question enjoyed so honourable a
reputation.




What Father Oswald saw A broad. 21



This controversy, unlike many discussions on religious ques-
tions, appears to have passed off most amicably, for the worthy
priest was pursuing his homeward journey in a state of the most
perfect charity with all mankind, and chanting as he went, in a
rather husky voice, some such edifying verse as this—

“ Then put aside all wrath,
For David shew’d us hath
Vinum letificat
Cor hominis ;”

when he came to the conclusion that the sun was very hot. He
had now reached the outskirts of Melcomb Wood, and the idea
of resting in the grateful shadow was irresistible ; so he sat down
at the root of a large oak surrounded by bushes, and proceeded
to refresh himself by finishing the small flask which, filled with a
choice vintage, his good friend the sub-prior had, in the excess
of hospitality, forced into his bosom at parting.

The shade was cool and pleasant; and after affectionately
pledging his friend, and draining the nethermost drop, the good
father was in no haste to move; so instead he leant his back to
the tree, and lazily hummed another stave of his carol—

“A merry heart in cage
Maketh a lusty age—”
but at this point a certain sight met his vision which at once
reduced him to a more serious frame of mind.

Through the tops of the low bushes by which he was himself
concealed, he saw first one, then a second, and then a third
figure, in the well-known guise of outlaws, emerge from the
covert. The sight filled him with alarm—not by any means on
his own account, for beyond his empty flask he had nothing to
lose ; and even with men so lawless as these might be supposed
to be, the person of a churchman was sure of respect—but he
feared that their presence might portend anything but good to
those who were now his best and dearest friends. Bands of such
banditti were at that time scattered but far too plentifully over
most districts of the country, but, fortunately, none had been
known to haunt the neighbourhood of Melcomb for a generation
past. What piece of mischief was there, then, on foot to bring






22 Mistress Alice Massenger.



these miscreants here? As he watched them through his leafy
screen, Bigod’s words of caution rose to Father Oswald’s memory.
Could it be possible that these fellows were in league with the
strange falconer for the perpetration of some scheme of plunder
or villany against the inmates of Melcomb Manor ?

At this instant he observed a horseman advancing at a rapid
pace along the road by which he had himself travelled, in whom
he soon recognised none other than Sir John Bigod. “Ha! ha!”
thought Father Oswald; “now this doughty knight comes
among us, my men in Kendal-green will show me that their com-
pany is wanted in haste elsewhere!” Great, therefore, was the
astonishment of the churchman when he saw that the apparent
outlaws, instead of flying, came forward to meet the knight as he
approached, and were soon engaged in close and, as it would
seem, confidential conversation with him.

Father Oswald’s observatory was at too great a distance from _

the group to permit of his overhearing anything that was said,
and the whole affair perplexed him in no moderate degree; but
from what he saw he drew a tolerably just inference—namely,
that whatever might be the underhand business afloat, Sir John
Bigod was privy to it, and he resolved to keep a shatp look-out
upon the knight for the future.

Full of this resolution, the priest continued to watch him
when the conference broke up, and Sir John rode slowly onwards
by the path that descended into the wood ; and keeping himself
under cover, took care not to lose sight of him. Thus it was
that Father Oswald became an unintentional spectator of the
strictly private scene above recorded.

VL—WHAT FATHER OSWALD SAW AT HOME.

ae story of Mistress Alice’s adventure, and of her rescue by
Giles Burston, was soon known to all at Melcomb, but the
further result of that adventure was not known; for Sir John
Bigod, although he altogether despised such a rival as the

a


ee Ee Oe: saw at Home. 22

ne saw Ae some aeedea measures for his ee would
be necessary, and was not likely to babble of a secret which so
nearly concerned himself, and which he imagined to be unknown
to any fourth person.

Father Oswald also kept his own counsel upon this point,
and indeed upon all that he had seen in Melcomb Wood. When
the story of the abduction was told to the wary priest, he said
nothing, but could not for a moment doubt in his own mind that
the three men in Kendal-green whom he had seen were the
offenders, or that they were acting under Sir John Bigod’s orders
And here it must be admitted that his acuteness carried him
somewhat too far, for being ignorant of the intended rescue, he
concluded that the knight's ‘designs with regard to Mistress Alice
were of the blackest nature possible, and accordingly resolved to
use proportionate vigilance in thwarting them. To some extent

this determination, and the necessity which it imposed upon him
of not weakening his position by showing his antagonist the
extent of his discoveries, kept him silent with regard to what he
had witnessed of the love scene.

There was, indeed, at first some conflict in his mind as to
whether he were not bound to drop some hint to the old lord of
Melcomb as to the danger his daughter incurred of forming an
unsuitable attachment. But there were arguments on the other
side. He liked the youth, and had some fellow-feeling for his
wandering and friendless condition; and without more certain
information, it would, he thought, be hard to deprive him of a
home anda patron. Under any circumstances, it would be well
to sound Burston, and learn how far the affair had actually
proceeded, before taking further steps. We shall see that Father
Oswald’s researches in this direction led to far other discoveries
than those which he had anticipated.

It will be remembered that when Giles Burston first presented
himself at Melcomb, his features had recalled some familiar face
to the remembrance of both the knight and the priest. Since
that time this resemblance had often occurred to Father Oswald’s
thoughts, but no clue had as yet presented itself by which he
could unravel the mystery. That clue was now to be supplied.






24 Mistress Alice Massenger.



It was in the afternoon of the day following that of the
adventure, and whilst the old esquire was taking his ordinary
after-dinner nap, that Father Oswald made up his mind to have
a little private talk with Giles Burston. The young man had
some time since left the hall to attend to his duties at the
falconry, and thither the holy father prepared to follow him. As
he passed down the hall for that purpose, he observed that the
falconer had by chance left his hunting-knife at his place at the
table, for in those days each man brought his own knife to the
board. “A fair excuse,” thought the priest; “I carry his whittle
to the flyer of hawks, and therewith begin me my dialogue.”

Father Oswald took up the knife. It was of rich and curious
workmanship—the haft, which was of silver, being fantastically
wrought into the figure of a wyvern. As he went on his way
and examined it, old associations connected with the heraldic
device entered his memory, and the image of one long since
known and numbered with the dead—one whose crest was the
wyvern, and whose features wore the expression that had per-
plexed him in Giles Burston—rose before his eyes. “It is
strange,” said Father Oswald to himself, as he crossed the stone
courtyard, “that I should not have thought of this before ; truly,
now, I shall not need to ask with Saul, King of Jewry, ‘Whose
son is this stripling ?’” .

It may be that the first idea of the priest was at once to open
his surmises to, and seek for a confirmation of them at the lips of
the falconer; but if such was the case, a moment’s reflection fixed
his determination to act with caution, and to do nothing as yet
which would compel him to make a confidant of the youth. He
therefore contented himself with putting a few subtle questions,
the drift of which was not perceptible, and the answers he
received were such as to convince him that his conjectures were
well founded; nor did he fail, though that now appeared a
secondary matter in his eyes, to worm out the exact position of
Burston’s affairs with Alice Massenger. Before leaving the
falconry, he drew forth the knife, and handed it to Giles Burston,
saying, “ Take this device, and if thou shouldst meet with the
son of the good knight who bore it at Boroughbridge, bid him






Tactics. 25

remember and observe the motto that goes therewith, whereof
the first word is, ‘Silentio!’ and chiefly let him remember this,
and hide well his whittle, when he standeth before Sir John
Bigod.”
. The young falconer showed that he understood the hint, by
asking for no explanation; and from that hour he found that he
had a warm friend and a zealous partisan in Father Oswald.

Vile ACInieSs

re spite of the various under-currents which we have been
tracing, the stream of life at Melcomb Manor continued to
wear upon its surface precisely the same appearance that it had
worn previously. In outward bearing the different members of
the family were the same to each other as before, and the visits of
Sir John Bigod still continued to furnish the same satisfaction to
Hugh Massenger, and the same opposite sensation to Mistress
Alice. A change was, however, now drawing near at hand.

About this time the intelligence brought to Sir John Bigod
from the Marches began to be of a nature which left him little
prospect of remaining long at Hilworth. New disturbances
among the Welsh were imminent, and he began to prepare
for that summons which he saw must shortly recall him to
his post.

Among other matters, he hastened to mature his plans for the
removal of Giles Burston. Although in the falconer’s conduct
towards Mistress Alice Massenger he had seen that which was
gall and wormwood to him, he had, at the time, passed it over in
contemptuous silence; it was not for him to waste words on such
a rival, but to crush him when opportunity should offer. Under
other circumstances, Sir John might have waited patiently for
such an occasion; but now, when he might any day be called
from the neighbourhood, he must make sure that his rival would
not be left behind him. He therefore took advantage of the first
chance of private conversation with Hugh Massenger which










26 Mistress Alice Massenger.

occurred to point out to him the dangers of retaining such a
person as Burston in his household; but the old esquire had
taken kindly to his falconer, and had conceived no light opinion
of his services in the wood; he was not, therefore, easily to be
persuaded.

“Nay, nay,” he said; “the youth is a good youth, and is, as
one may well see, of gentle breeding. It were a shame to me
if I should drive him from my doors.”

“ As to his gentle breeding,” replied the knight, “if all I hear
be true, it will go for but little. I had in mine own mind a
thought that I must have seen this youth before he came hither ;
and one of my fellows avers that he is neither more nor less than
the son of old Bustin, the vintner, at Warwick. His fine airs
have doubtless been learnt from the gallants of the earl’s
following, who frequent his father’s house; and now he must
needs try to pass himself for a gentleman under disguise, with
the hope, it may be, to carry off a lady of lands. Have a care,
then, Master Massenger, and clip this tiercelet’s wing before he
have time to strike the quarry.”

The old lord of Melcomb had too high a respect for his
powerful neighbour to question his words,.even though they
were given on no better authority than the assertion of one of
his own serving-men. Yet his liking for Burston, and his
unwillingness to act unjustly towards him, were not easily to be
overcome. “Nay, nay,” he said; “the youth is a good youth,
and hath done good service; he must not be turned forth into
the world till his fault be proven against him.”

“True,” replied the knight; “nor would I, upon no better
cause than suspicion, counsel you to do him injury; though you
must needs look to the peace of your own house, and it may be
that you will best advance the youth’s own fortunes at the same
time. By your tenure, you must furnish one man-at-arms to
serve in the Marches; and since Peter Coulter had his skull
cracked at Hereford fair with a black-jack, by Morgan-ap-Rhys,
for calling ‘leeks good meat for goslings, we have had none.
Send this gay tapster with me. If he have manhood in him, he
will gladly go to the wars, and I shall see that he lacks no




A Parting... 27



advancement befitting his birth; if he be craven, and fear blows,
bid him, since he loves it, go in peace.”

These words of Sir John Bigod bore so much the appearance
of reason and genuine friendship, that Hugh Massenger had
nothing to oppose to them, and so was obliged, reluctantly, to
assent to the knight’s proposal. Nor did Burston, when his
master’s wishes were made known to him, see any way by which
he could avoid the proffered employment. To a high-spirited
youth there was, of course, in itself nothing distasteful in the
prospect of a few months of border warfare. But Melcomb
Manor had now become to him the dearest spot upon earth, and
to leave it and Alice Massenger would be the greatest of evils ;
and besides this, he had reasons for doubting whether the feelings
of the man who was now to be his superior could be altogether
those of kindness towards him.

If Giles Burston was inclined to question the motives which
had induced Sir John Bigod to take him under his protection,
there was one other among the inhabitants of Melcomb who did
not hesitate at once to ascribe the knight’s proceedings to some
plan of jealousy or revenge, and that man was Father Oswald.
Yet of so peace-loving a disposition was this exemplary priest,
that he did not allow his suspicions in any way to interrupt his
friendly intercourse with the knight; on the contrary, from this
very time he was observed to affect his society still more
sedulously than formerly. Nevertheless, it was with some
surprise that the household learnt, a fortnight later, that Father
Oswald had pledged himself to accompany Sir John Bigod and
his troop in the double capacity of chaplain and secretary.

VUI.—A PARTING.

ae departure of Sir John Bigod was more hurried than had
been anticipated. Several days earlier than the time at
which he had been expected to set out for the Welsh Marches,
there came a messenger in all haste from Earl Fitz-Turold, with






28 Mistress Alice Massenger.



the information that Howel Goch was known to be already at the
head of a considerable army, and that Sir John was at once required
to take charge of the defence of Turvey Castle, as it was prob-
able that that important post would form an early object of attack.

To Giles Burston, who had looked forward to many more
days during which he might still be near Mistress Alice, the
news that he must on the morrow be ready to leave Melcomb
was anything but pleasing. His few preparations were soon
made; and then, as the twilight drew on, he strolled forth to
take what seemed to him, in his present frame of mind, to be a
last look at the environs of a place which had become so dear to
him, and to indulge in the gloomy thoughts which he could not
overcome. He had not as yet found means of petitioning for a
last interview with Alice; and though he knew that she must be
well aware of his approaching departure, he did not dare to hope
that she would grant him such an interview unasked.

He visited the falconry, and gave his farewell caresses to the
noble birds, which must henceforward be cared for by others ;
and then, finding himself impelled by the recollections of his first
coming to Melcomb, he turned his steps towards the hedges of
clipped yew which bounded the pleasaunce. As he paced
beneath their dark shadows, which harmonised so well with his
own sense of present sorrow and his forebodings of future evil,
he was startled by a step behind him; he turned, and found
himself face to face with Father Oswald.

It was almost in expectation of a reproof for straying to a
spot where he might well be suspected of hoping to meet with
Mistress Alice, that Burston encountered the worthy father; but
he had no grounds for such an apprehension. “ My son,” said
the friendly confessor, “I have been seeking for you. I have
thought much on your welfare, and deem it unfitting that you
should leave this place without first bidding farewell to Mistress
Alice Massenger ; and to the end that you may do so without
hindrance, I have prevailed upon her that she will, under my
guidance, come to the pleasaunce, by the time that the moon is
above the tops of yonder trees.”

As Father Oswald said this, he pointed to the moon, which








_ A Parting. 29

was already shining through the great elms which crowned the
banks to the eastward; and without waiting for the falconer’s
thanks, he turned back towards the house. ;

Burston opened the wicket, and stood within the sacred
precincts of the pleasaunce. For the moment, it seemed that all
his troubles had passed away; and the pleasure caused by
Father Oswald’s intelligence was too fresh in his mind to allow
him to think the moon slow in climbing into the open sky.
Before she had well done so, the small door in the angle of the
gable was heard to open and close again, and Father Oswald
and his charge entered the garden. ;

Between the spot where Giles Burston awaited his mistress
and the house, grew an apple-tree. Beneath this, and placing
his back to its bole, the discreet churchman stationed himself, -
and appeared at once to be absorbed in the contemplation of the
heavenly bodies. The meeting of the lovers was, therefore,
almost as much unrestrained as if even this friendly witness had
. not been present.

Upon Giles Burston’s melancholy the announcement of
Father Oswald had fallen like a burst of sunlight, but the delight
which he had anticipated from the meeting was scarcely destined
to be realised; for from the first moment of their interview he
could not but see that a still deeper gloom had overshadowed the
mind of his mistress than that which had possessed his own. It
was in vain that, whilst he tried to stifle his own forebodings, the
young man urged that had Sir John formed any serious plan
of revenge, he would scarcely have taken another member of the
Melcomb household—Father Oswald—to the scene where it was
to be carried out.

Mistress Alice shook her head. ‘“ Father Oswald,” she said,
“has taken good care to hide from the knight any love that he
may bear towards you; nay, rather, he has made him believe that
he hates you, or he would never have ridden upon this journey
with Sir John’s good-will.”

“Nay, sweet Mistress Alice, but I mistrust me that your
gentle fears on my behalf make you wrong Sir John Bigod in
your thoughts.”




30 Mistress Alice Massenger.



“I would it were so,” answered Alice; “ yet in this I speak
not of my own judgment, but after the wiser counsel of Father
Oswald. He who is most subtle in knowing men’s thoughts, is
satisfied that there is evil determined against you. Had he
thought otherwise, he would not have wrought upon Sir John to
take him in his company.”

These words showed much to Giles Burston of which he had
before no suspicion. “Can it be, then,” he asked, “that care for
the safety of a simple man-at-arms, such as I am, is the cause of
Father Oswald’s going to the wars ?”

A faint smile passed over the anxious face of Alice Massenger.
“ However lightly,” she said, “you may yourself account your
own welfare, there are, as you see, those who hold it of some
worth. Our good father leaves Melcomb for no other cause
than that he may watch over your life and well-being.”

“Till now,” said Burston, “I had thought that Father Oswald
went on this journey for pure love that he bore to Sir John
Bigod’s fellowship. Know you the cause why he undertakes so
much labour for my sake ?”

“T know not,” replied the lady; “but this I know, that when
one such as he is so regards your life, you should yourself take
good heed to it as a thing of worth; and doubt not but that by
one other that wishes you well there shall ever be prayer made
for your deliverance, alike from the open enemy, and from the
traitor who smites unseen.”

Burston clasped the hand of his mistress. “ Fear not,” he
said, “but that against craft I shall ever be wary, and that as to
fair blows, my arm can well keep my head ;” and then, in a lower
tone, he continued, “and, truth to tell, sweet Mistress Alice, it
would be greater solace to me, when we are far asunder, could |
know that so true a friend as Father Oswald were watching over
your safety, instead of caring for mine.”

“You speak from the gentleness of your heart,” answered she,
“and I can well believe your words; but Father Oswald is wise,
and knows what is best. When one man whom we know of is
away, I stand in no peril here at Melcomb, whilst you will have
much to dread. I would fain hope that all will be well; and yet






Danger.

3!

a great fear has laid hold on me, that here, where we first met,
we may also have met for the last time.”

Alice’s voice trembled as she uttered these words, and before
her lover could reply, Father Oswald gave an admonitory cough,
to warn the young couple that it was now time the interview
came to an end. At that moment a cloud opportunely
passed over the moon, and before she again shone out clearly,
the farewell had been taken, Burston had left: the pleasaunce,
and Alice Massenger, with Father Oswald, had re-entered the
house. :

At early dawn the ex-falconer set forth to join Sir John
Bigod’s troop, and before evening he and his comrades were far
away to the west. The spare horses and baggage followed more
slowly a few hours later; and with these, as their pace better
befitted his clerical character, travelled Father Oswald. Many
words of comfort did the worthy priest speak to Mistress Alice
before he went, with promises of intelligence whenever occasion
might offer; and that he might the better have it in his power to
send her some tidings, he carried among his worldly goods
certain of her doves. “For these posts,” he said, “be more
worthy of trust than are men, who have legs to linger, and
tongues to babble withal.”

IX.—DANGER.

aaa hasty ride across a country as yet unknown to him, and
the novelty of a soldier's life, soon wore away much of the
sorrow which Giles Burston had felt at leaving Melcomb, as well
as his apprehension of coming villany; so that in a little while
he began to look forward with some pleasure to the stirring
scenes in which he hoped shortly to be engaged.

Yet when Turvey Castle had been reached, and when, day
after day, no active enterprise was undertaken, he found life in
garrison to be, what the ardent youth of all ages have found it, of
all others perhaps the most tedious. As yet, Sir John Bigod’s






duty was only to keep this post against the enemy, of whom a
large force, under Howel himself, was not far distant. Fitz-
Turold, who had been engaged against the Welshmen further
to the south, was now said to be drawing near, and when he
came there was good hope of action and hard blows; as yet,
however, there was only the wearisome duty of keeping watch
and ward.

Father Oswald arrived at the castle some days later than
Burston, but he appeared to shun intercourse with the young
man-at-arms, if it were possible, even more carefully than at
Melcomb. Burston would gladly have talked with him, and
asked him concerning many things ; he was curious to know what
motive could have induced the priest to take so deep an interest
in himself, and he naturally desired to ascertain whether the
astute churchman’s watchfulness had enabled him to fathom any
revengeful project on the part of Sir John; but he rightly con-
cluded that Father Oswald’s conduct was adopted from motives
of policy, and that he should best aid his plans by avoiding him
as much as possible.

On one occassion only did the priest beckon him into the
little turret-chamber, which he called his own, that he might
speak to him a few words in private. Apparently his chief
object was to charge the youth, in case any extraordinary orders
were given him; and more especially, if he received directions
to leave the castle upon any solitary commission, at once to
make the matter known to himself. Burston gave the required
promise, and was proceeding to ask for further information, when
Father Oswald briefly answered that there was treachery afoot,
and that in order to defeat it, watchfulness and silence would
be necessary.

Not many days later than this interview, Giles Burston was
summoned into the presence of Sir John Bigod. The knight’s
words and manner seemed intended to convince the youth that he
wished only to be considered by him as his good friend and patron.
He had, he said, received from his neighbour, Master Hugh
Massenger, such high commendations of his retainer, that he
desired to give him good employment on such services as might




Danger.

lead to notice and promotion. “For this reason,” he continued,
“together with the opinion I have myself formed of you, you
have been chosen to carry my answer to Howel Goch, concerning
certain exchanges of prisoners, and other matters now in treaty
between us.”

To this flattering speech Burston only bowed.

“Two archers,” resumed the knight, “to whom the country
is well known, shall see you as far as the nearest outposts of the
rebels, and thence you will have safe conduct to their chief, to
whom you will bear a packet. Observe all that you may, and
meddle in no man’s business; as to your homeward journey,
Howel will himself take charge for it.”

As Sir John uttered the last words, there was, to Burston’s
ears, a touch of irony in his tone; but this, he said to himself,
might be but fancy. However, having received his packet, he
made it his first business to search for Father Oswald, that he
might acquaint him with what he had heard; and it was then he
first learnt that the father had that morning set out for a neigh-
bouring garrison, and would not return till sunset.

Burston was not a little disconcerted by this discovery, and
had it been possible, he would not have set forth upon his mission
till the father’s return; but Sir John’s orders were peremptory,
and required his instant departure; he had therefore no choice but
to obey. The two men who accompanied him were rough, plain
soldiers, who had long been stationed in the castle; and from
their looks, Burston deemed it well to be upon his guard against
any treachery on their part. This caution was needless, for they
had less of the ruffian in their hearts than in their faces, and
brought him safely enough across that valley, so rich by nature,
but now so impoverished by the harsh policy of the Lords
Marchers, which lies to the west of Turvey Castle.

Beside the river by which that valley is divided, they bade
him “ God-speed,” and turned back on their homeward journey.
The roadway leading to the water’s edge on each side showed
that the stream might be forded at this point; and beneath a
clump of trees on the opposite bank, a number of armed men
were loitering, or lay stretched on the grass, having evidently








34 Mistress Alice Massenger.



been posted to defend or watch the passage. Breaking down a
green branch, and waving it above his head, Burston rode into
the ford; and as he did so, two of the Welshmen moved down
to the brink to receive him when he should reach the farther
side.

Brought by these men before the officer who commanded
their party, Burston, with much difficulty, owing to the Welsh
gentleman’s small knowledge of English, gave him to understand
his errand. Some refreshment was then offered, which, to the
eye of the young envoy, reflected no great lustre upon either the
hospitality or the resources of his hosts; after which, he was sent
forward with an escort to the camp of Howel Goch.

It was near nightfall when he reached the head-quarters of
the Welsh leader. The half-ruined castle of Llancoity, in which
that chief had for the time being established himself, had been
built in former days, in imitation and rivalry of those of the
Norman invaders, by an ancestor of Howel Goch. From it that
warlike prince of old times had led many a foray into the Lords
Marchers’ territories; and a large tree, known to the English as
the “Gallows-oak,” which stood at no great distance from the
principal entrance, was famous as the place at which he was
wont to execute every Englishman who was so unlucky as to fall
into his hands. Since those days the castle had at one time
been occupied, at another dismantled by the English; whilst
the descendants of its founder had been driven from the fruitful
district in which it was seated, to their more sterile possessions
among the mountains. If Howel Goch emulated the spirit and
deeds of his ancestors, he was, perhaps, not wholly inexcusable.

Burston’s interview with this formidable chieftain was short,
but to the point. The Welsh leader read quickly through the
packet which was delivered to him, and then addressed the
bearer in English, in some such words as these—‘“I am here
assured by the valiant knight, Sir John Bigod, that he has, at my
request, set at liberty his prisoner, my kinsman, Evan ap
Griffith ; and in return, I am to give to the bringer of the news
such a horse as will bear him safely to his journey’s end. Now,
look you I am an honourable man, and shall keep my terms,








News from the Marches. 35

and so soon as I have certain knowledge that my kinsman has
reached his own people, you shall mount yonder steed ;” and he
pointed to the “Gallows-oak.” “It is a trusty one, that hath
carried a hundred riders as good as thou art, and failed none of
them ere he reached his journey’s end.”

Before Burston had time to expostulate, he found himself
disarmed, bound, and dragged from the spot. That night, his
lodging was in a secure, but somewhat dark and uncomfortable
dungeon, beneath the chief tower of Llancoity.

To all appearance, Bigod had taken effectual means of ridding
himself of his rival. Wholly cut off from friends and country-
men, and a doomed prisoner among a people, who, according to
their own ancient saying, “loved hanging an Englishman more
than their chief national dainty,” Burston’s plight was indeed a
forlorn one.

X.—NEWS FROM THE MARCHES,

ISTRESS ALICE MASSENGER had, as we have seen,

been accustomed in her earlier days to a somewhat quiet

and uneventful life at Melcomb; but till now she had never felt

the dreariness of it. Week after week passed, and still there was

no news of her lover; whilst the knowledge of the more than

common perils to which he was exposed, was a constant source
of alarm to her.

At last there came a rumour—bruited about among the
dependants at Melcomb, and said to have been derived from
Hilworth—that Burston the falconer had been taken and hanged
by the Welsh. This story, as it was brought by one of her
maidens to Mistress Alice, was duly garnished with certain
horrible particulars, after the usual manner of such reports; such
as that the dead body-had been cruelly mutilated, and the like.
Alice knew not how much of this rumour to believe; and the
good old esquire, when it was told to him, showed himself so
much troubled, as to make it plain that he still kept his partiality




36 Mistress Alice Massenger.

for his former favourite; indeed, he needed but little inciting on
the part of his daughter to induce him to search out the source
of the tale. It was found to have been spread by a sick follower
of Bigod’s, who had returned to his home.

This man was brought to Melcomb, but he could give no
certain information in the matter. He had heard that Burston
had been sent on some errand to the rebel camp; and he knew
that the day on which he had himself left for Hilworth, it was
the common talk of the garrison of Turvey Castle that the young
man had been hanged. As to mutilation, the Welsh had ever
behaved to the dead in such a manner as was a shame for any
Christians to use, and it was like enough that Burston might
have been so treated by them. This was all he could tell about
the affair.

If there was much ground for fear, there was still some room
for hope from this man’s tidings, and this Alice Massenger often
repeated to herself, as she watched in her mother’s chamber, or
walked in her pleasaunce; and yet she had so much looked for
some such intelligence as this, that now, when it was actually
come, she scarcely doubted of its truth. If she had before had
little heart for her accustomed employments, she had still less
now ; through her round of daily duties she went as a matter of
habit, but it was in vain that she tried to arouse herself to an
interest in her old pleasures.

Yet for one of her old delights she still cared, and that was
for her doves; for it was through them that she looked for the
one thing she most desired, namely, for news from the Marches.
Each day, as she fed her pretty flock, she looked for the well-
remembered plumage of those which Father Oswald had
carried away, and as she watched their fellows, longed for their
return.

A week had wellnigh passed since the rumour of Giles
Burston’s death had reached Melcomb, and then, at last, one of
the looked-for messengers came. The weary creature found its
mistress at the accustomed spot, and alighted, tired out, upon
her shoulder. Scarcely giving herself time to caress it, she
untied, with trembling hands, the packet which it carried round


The Hour of Need. 37

itsneck. (See Frontispiece.) The writing was in the well-known
hand of Father Oswald, and as Alice hastily read it, she burst
into tears.

Whether her tears were those of sorrow or of joy, or whether
in them she merely gave vent to overwrought feelings, we must
not at this point of the story stay to enquire; before doing so, it
will be necessary to return to Giles Burston, whom we left
awaiting his execution in the dungeon of Llancoity.

XI.—THE HOUR OF NEED.

LTHOUGH in the lodgings to which the hospitality of

Howel Goch had consigned him the changes of day and
night were not over perceptible, Burston was aware that noontide
of the third day was drawing near, when he was summoned
forth by his jailer. That official, who had probably been chosen
for his post for his knowledge of English, was genial and
talkative. ‘The young gentleman, Evan ap Griffith,” he said,
“had returned safe and sound to his kinsman, and so highly
praised the usage he had had of Sir John Bigod, that Howel
Goch, who loved to be behind no man in courtesy, desired to
show his sense of the English captain’s kindness by hanging his
man at once.”

Burston was accordingly hurried out of the castle, and towards
the fatal tree, by a guard of Welsh soldiers, to whom any remon-
strances, had he addressed them, would have been unintelligible :
near to the oak, however, stood an officer who appeared to have
charge of the whole proceeding, and to him the doomed man
made such an appeal as he might for his life. He pleaded his
inviolable character as an envoy; and urged that, though an
inferior officer like Bigod might consent to his death, it would
certainly be avenged by his commander, the just and powerful
Earl Fitz-Turold. Burston besought the officer to represent this
to Howel, but the Welshman only shook his head. “If your
earl,” he said, “takes vengeance for every Englishman hanged






38 Mistress Alice Massenger.



by our chief, he will have enough to do; and one more or less
will matter but little. You will have no mercy from Howel
Goch; and therefore, young Saxon, you will do well to address
your prayers elsewhere, and prepare to die.”

“ At least, then,” said Burston,. “ you will grant mea priest ?”

“ Ay, truly,” answered the Welshman, “if there be one at
hand who can speak your tongue; but this gentleman” (pointing
to the soldier who was adjusting the rope) “must not be kept
waiting for all the priests in Christendom.”

A considerable group of lookers-on had gathered round the
party who guarded the prisoner. ‘The Englishman is in luck,”
observed one of them; “for here comes a priest of his own -
nation.”

Burston turned his eyes in the direction indicated, and the
sight which met them at once gave him some glimmering of
hope: a man was approaching, clad in the clerical habit, who
appeared to be somewhat aged, as he walked slowly, and leant
upon a staff; but in this figure the keen eye of Giles Burston
detected none other than Father Oswald. The priest no sooner
joined the concourse of idlers, than he was pushed forward to
shrive the condemned man.

The father looked round the group apparently in some
astonishment; and then, addressing himself to the Welshman in
command, inquired whether it were that officer's pleasure that he
should do his function. Being answered in the affirmative, he
requested that the nearest soldiers might stand back a little;
“for,” said he, “ Holy Church ordains not that any should hear a
shrift save the confessor and the confessed.” As the prisoner’s
escape was apparently out of the question, the Welshmen at once
fell back. ‘Kneel, my son, kneel,” said Father Oswald; and
Burston fell upon his knees.

“Be of good courage, my son,” proceeded the father, in a
low tone; “fear nothing, for help is at hand. We have but to
keep these Welsh wolves quiet whilst a good horseman may ride
a league; and then Fitz-Turold’s lances shall teach them to
howl toa proper tune. But now thou art in great peril of death,
and must confess; yet do not overlook any of thy lesser sins






Revelations. 39

through overmuch haste, for we have time for a long shrift ere
our riders can be here; and till they come it must not be
finished.”

Much in this spirit did Father Oswald proceed with his office,
and went through the prescribed forms with so much deliberation
as to draw murmurs from many of the lookers-on, and some
impatient words from the officer. But Father Oswald was not
to be put down. ‘My son,” he said to the latter, “grudge not
his last moments to a dying man, for who can tell how near thine
own end may be.”

And in truth the Welshman stood more nearly to death than
he supposed; for at this instant the trampling of hoofs was
heard, arms flashed in the sunlight, and some fifty horsemen
came sweeping from behind the neighbouring covert in full
career. Father Oswald seized the first moment of surprise to cut
Burston’s cords, and then laid about him lustily with his staff—a
proceeding which his penitent seconded with the first weapon
that came to his hand. The few Welshmen who stood on their
defence were at once borne down by Fitz-Turold’s lances; and
almost in less time than the scene has taken to describe, the
priest and Burston were mounted behind two of the horsemen,
and the whole party was in full retreat from Llancoity, at a pace
which rendered pursuit on the part of the illmounted Welsh
little better than hopeless.

XII.—REVELATIONS,

N the banks of the same stream which our young envoy had
crossed three days previously, but at a point somewhat more

to the south, he now saw with surprise, in the first pause of his
flight, that a considerable army was encamped. Fitz-Turold had
taken up a position there over-night, and was preparing to attack
Howel Goch on the morrow. It was not till the shelter of this
camp had been gained that Burston was able to express his
gratitude to Father Oswald for the rescue in which he had taken




40 Mistress Alice Massenger.



the chief part, and to inquire by what means he had been enabled
to come so opportunely to his aid. _

“The story is a long one,” replied the priest; “but as we
can now talk without the fear of Sir John Bigod before our eyes,
I may tell it from beginning to end. Shortly then, my son, I
had for many days past known of the knight’s design against
you; but he had given me to believe that he would not so soon
have carried it out. I desired his treason against you to come
to full bloom, that it might work his own punishment, but I
meant it not to bear fruit; and indeed I had determined in my
own mind that you should carry the letter given you for Howel
Goch to Fitz-Turold, with another of mine own inditing, in which
this treachery should have been made known to the earl.”

“But in this,” said Burston, “you failed through not being
at Turvey Castle when I departed.”

“Even so; and this was through Bigod’s craft. Now when
I returned, and found you gone, and knew well upon what errand,
I was sore troubled; but I took counsel with myself, and got
away as secretly as might be, and came with all speed to the
earl, to whom I disclosed the whole matter.”

“ But,” asked Burston, “would the Lord Marcher willingly
lend an ear to aught against so famous a captain as Sir John
Bigod ?”

“Gilbert Fitz-Turold,” answered Father Oswald, “knows
me well. He loved my Lord of Lancaster, and was deep in his
schemes for freeing England of the Despensers, though none had
knowledge of it save my lord and a certain clerk that penned
many weighty and secret things at his bidding. I was that
clerk; and if I had been so minded, Fitz-Turold’s head had
made my peace with the king. Therefore the earl may well
trust me. Now, when I told him how the son of the good
knight, Sir Henry Brent

“Tt is as I thought, then,” broke in the young man; “you
knew my father ?”

The priest smiled, and continued, “ When I told him how the
son of a good knight, remembered by him of old, had been
betrayed to death among these barbarians, the earl swore by St.






Revelations. AI

Kenelm that Bigod should answer for it, though he were the best
knight in the Marches, and that he would have you from among
the Welsh if it cost him his earldom. I was for sending
peaceably to Howel. to demand you; but the earl, who knew his
man, answered that if I cared to have your head without the
body, the act would be a wise one, for we should assuredly get it
for so doing.

“From that which I have seen of Howel Goch,” said Giles
Burston—or rather, as he must now be called, Giles Brent—“ I
am much of the earl’s opinion.”

“So instead,” proceeded Father Oswald, “he led on his forces
with all speed to this place; and when our spies brought word
as to how and where you were to be hanged, he sent fifty of his
best lances to bring you off. I could not be idle in the business,
and being a man of peace, I could pass openly; so whilst our
friends went far about, to draw near to Llancoity under covert, I
came as quickly as I might, to keep the Welshmen in play till
the proper time; and, thanks to the slovenly watch kept by the
enemy, all went well.”

“And now,” said Brent, “I must needs ask you of another
matter. For what cause is it that you care so deeply for my
welfare, and that you have been ready to save my life at the
peril of your own ?”

“Truly, my son,” answered the priest, “you had good right
to have known this before; but I have hidden it, and have made
myself as a stranger to you, that I might the better blind the
eyes of Sir John Bigod. Know then, Giles Brent, that your
father did me much kindness in old days, and brought me to the
notice of his good lord and mine, the Earl of Lancaster, of whom
I had fair preferment, and should have had better, but for the
evil chance of Boroughbridge, which cost me a noble master and
my hopes, and thee thy father and thy lands.”

“Whatever kindness my father may have done,” said the
young man, “it has been nobly repaid to his child; but tell me,
now, why did you desire that my name should be so carefully

hidden from Bigod ?”
“There was old enmity between him and thy father, and






42 Mistress Alice Massenger.



therefore I warned thee. But enough of these matters, for I
must now bring thee to the presence of the Lord Marcher, who
will doubtless give thee fair occasion to-morrow, when he goeth
forth against these Welshmen, to prove thyself thy father’s son.”

XIII. SUNSHINE.

a was four days after the above conversation took place that
’ the winged post was despatched to Alice Massenger, for it
was not till that time that Father Oswald returned to Turvey
Castle; and of the events which took place in the interim, we
can best gain a knowledge by referring to the letter which the
good father indited for her benefit.

After assuring Alice of her lover’s safety, and briefly telling
her of his imprisonment and rescue, the missive proceeded some-
what in this strain :—“ Afterward the Earl Fitz-Turold made war
on this same Howel Goch, and took his fenced castle, Llancoity
by name. There were, as I hear, many good deeds of arms
done; and amongst others, the young esquire, Giles Brent, who
was sometime called Burston, hath done valiantly. Neverthe-
less, Howel and his rabblement have for this time escaped us.
And now I have that to tell which will touch thee nearly. When
our soldiers drew near to take the castle, and came to a tree
thereby, where execution was wont to be done, they found
hanging on it the carcass of Sir John Bigod, whose death fell out
in this manner. Word being brought him that the earl had
sworn to send him a prisoner to the king, he forthwith fled to
Llancoity, hoping there to have found good shelter; but, as it
would seem (whether from the rarity of the thing, I know not),
the having of an English knight in his hands is too sore a
temptation to a Welshman to be withstood, and this Howel Goch
incontinently hanged him.”

To say that Alice Massenger rejoiced over the fall of Sir
John Bigod would be to do her wrong; yet we may hope that
the pity she felt for his unknightly fate was counterbalanced by


Sunshine. 43



joy for her lover's safety ; certain it is, that though she had still
the chances of war to fear, after she had received this letter her
dejection did not return.

Yet she had long to wait; and most part of the summer had
gone by before the Welsh war was brought to its close. News of
the final overthrow of Howel Goch was at last carried to Melcomb
by a messenger of Earl Fitz-Turold’s, who announced that his
lord was now on his way to the king, and proposed to halt for a
short space at Melcomb, as he desired to speak on certain
matters of business with Master Massenger.

The arrival of such a guest as the Lord Marcher was no
small event at Melcomb Manor; but by Alice it was chiefly
valued on account of two persons who came in the earl’s train,
one of whom was Giles Brent, and the other Father Oswald.
Fitz-Turold soon opened the real purpose of his visit. It was
to commend to Master Massenger, as a suitor for his daughter’s
hand, the young esquire, Giles Brent, son of his sometime friend,
the good knight, Sir Henry Brent. The youth, said the Lord
Marcher, was the worthy son of a worthy sire, and had so far
shown himself able and valiant in the late war, that he should
himself look to his future preferment, and should make suit to
the king for restoration of the forfeited lands of his father.

Doubtless, since he used such arguments, the earl was a
pleader well fitted to gain his end; but whether his praises and
promises, or the ancient esquire’s partiality for his former favourite,
most prevailed, I know not; certain it is, however, that before
he rode on his way the old lord of Melcomb had given his consent
to the union, and all things had been arranged as Father Oswald
suggested, and as Giles Brent and Mistress Alice Massenger
most desired.












DN Bee OG We)



= 72) N this history of Mistress Alice Massenger I have shown
in what manner the Brents came first to be lords of
Melcomb; for it is to this Giles, and Alice his wife,

Y— that we trace our descent. I do not find that the Earl
Fitz-Turold obtained restitution of the lands of Sir Henry
Brent, which had, it seems, been otherwise granted; but it is
recorded that instead of them he gained from the king a grant
of certain lands in Herefordshire, which were afterwards
exchanged for others adjoining to the Manor of Melcomb. So
that this Giles became a man of good estate and account, as is
made manifest from a patent under the hand of King Edward
the Third, empowering him to fortify his house at Melcomb, and
to empark certain lands there; of which last permission only he
would seem to have availed himself.

He left a numerous issue, both of sons and daughters; but
during the two next generations I meet with nothing worthy of
being made the subject of a special history; yet, touching the
life of Isabel, eldest daughter of Henry, grandson of the above
Giles Brent, certain matters are told, which have been handed
down as one of the most remarkable of our family traditions.

The Henry Brent spoken of had many children, of whom
Isabel was the eldest: she is said to have been a maiden of
great beauty, but to have been proud and nothing gentle in her
disposition. In his household also, in some part, was brought
up one Gilbert Brent, the son of a deceased kinsman of his, who










L[nterlogue I. 45

was but little younger than the above-named Isabel. This
youth, being but of slender patrimony and of quick parts, was
bred a scholar at Oxford, where his learning was, for his years,
much commended. It had been supposed that he would in due
time enter upon the priesthood; but about the time that he
attained to manhood he showed no desire towards this course of
life, and that for some cause not manifest to his kinsman,
choosing rather to betake himself to one of the Inns of Court.
As the ensuing history is narrated, his motives for doing so will
probably become known to the reader, as will also somewhat of
the course of his after life; for his story and that of his cousin
Isabel are closely but unhappily linked together.






THE GREEN HUNTSMAN.

-_— OTS SS TOSI 2
I.— AFLOAT.

O-MORROW, then, my clerkly kinsman, you will
leave us, and in this gay and wondrous London to
which you are going, you will forget the homely faces
of the homely folk at Melcomb.”

These words were spoken by Isabel Brent, as she leaned
backwards on the cushions of the boat in which her kinsman
Gilbert was rowing her, and as she glided among the lilies of
the smooth stream which flows past Melcomb Park.

“ Did I then forget you, or Melcomb, at Oxford ?” he asked.

“ At Oxford; oh no! Why should you? You could have
seen nothing there but books and boys. But in London, where
all the fairest ladies in the land gather round King Henry’s
court, you will find more weighty reasons for forgetting us.”

“Tt may be that the fair ladies of the Court will not often
meet the eyes of a poor scholar of Clement’s Inn; and yet, even
though I could win the favour of the greatest and brightest
there, none would be so fair, to my thoughts, as one face that |
had left behind me at Melcomb, Cousin Isabel.”

Gilbert Brent uttered these words with an air of great
seriousness, which only provoked a laugh from his companion.
“Were it not that all men do the same thing,” she said, “I
should have deemed that you scholars learned such pretty






Afloat. 47



speeches as this from your books, so ready are they at your
tongues’ ends, and so much are they alike. We maidens, Sir
Clerk, are weary of them; so prithee, gentle kinsman, leave these
idle conceits, and talk more wisely.”

“Cousin Isabel,” said the youth, suddenly resting on his
oars, “how long will you study to vex me thus? A hundred
times you have done it; you have led me on as though you
would have had me say everything that I longed to say, and then,
when you saw me about to speak, you have thrust me back with
some such jesting words as these; and hitherto your pleasure
has been law to me, and I have been silenced.”

There was an impetuosity, and a determination too, about
the young man’s manner, which was quite new to Isabel; yet
she answered nothing, but, looking over the side of the boat, let
one end of her green mantle fall almost to the water, and
professed to be amusing herself by seeing how nearly it might
approach the surface without touching it.

“Isabel,” he went on, “you bid me make no idle speeches,
and I will make none; what I have to say is in sober earnest,
and I will not be silenced.”

He paused, but Isabel made no reply; only, instead of
playing with her drapery, she now sat quite still, with her eyes
fixed upon her folded hands; so he spoke on.

“In your waywardness you have ever treated me as though
I had been only a thing to toy with, like your bracket or your
bird, and I have always worshipped you with some sort of awe,
and have been silent when you bade me; and yet, you must
know, Isabel Brent—you cannot but know it—that all this time
I have loved you with a deeper love than words can utter.”

Still she made no answer, either by word or sign, but sat
motionless, with clasped hands and downcast eyes. The young
scholar gazed eagerly on her as she sat there, with her head bent
forward, her eyes hidden by their long lashes, and her rich hair
moving gently in the light wind that. played along the stream,
and thought that there could be no beauty to compare with
hers.

“Tsabel,” he said, “it is long now since my love for you,








48 The Green Huntsman.



unspoken as it was, has been the constant thought and the one
motive of my life. It has made me thrust aside my earliest
hopes, and has changed the whole course of my career. With
your favour, I shall be strong, and do bravely in the world;
without it, I shall have no object, and shall waste my life. It is
with such a love that I regard you; and will you not then say
that you can give me some little love in return ?”

Gilbert spoke passionately, and many maidens in Isabel’s
place would have been moved, perhaps to tears. Isabel Brent,
however, did not weep, for she was not a damsel subject to that
weakness. It may be that she was touched, but she did not
show it; she only looked downwards as before, and was still
silent.

“To-morrow,” he continued, “I leave Melcomb to begin my
new life in London. I have told you all that my love is for you, all
that your love might be to me, and will you then drive me away
hopeless; for ail that I bear towards you will you give me no
love in return ?”

There was a slight pause, and then, raising her eyes till they
had almost, but not quite, reached the level of his own, she said,
in a low calm voice, “ Perhaps I may—a little.”

Had Gilbert been anywhere but in a boat, he would have
sprung up and thrown his arms round her; indeed, as it was, he
had almost upset the frail craft in the impulse to do so, before
he recollected himself, or could submit to take his happiness in
amore tranquil manner. True, Gilbert Brent was a man of no
* mean natural judgment, and he had seen enough of his cousin to
know that there was much in her disposition which was not
amiable; but what was that to him? Was she not, to his
thinking, the most beautiful of all living beings, and was not he
in love? Had she not favoured his suit, and had he not
therefore good right to be happy ?

It will be needless to recount all that passed between the-
cousins whilst the boat was slowly floating down the river
towards Melcomb. With a heart full of his new joy, Gilbert
said many things. Isabel spoke but few words; she was not
under the influence of so strong an emotion as that by which he






‘Tue Course oF Love.
How smooth these gentle waters are
Beneath the summers glow_
Alas, that Love, more gentle far,
smoothly may not flow!





MORE THAN KIN.







A Court Gallant. 51

was moved, yet the language of love and adoration made pleasant
music to her ears.

“It were well,” said Gilbert, as they left the boat—“ it were
well, sweetest cousin, that I should tell my kinsman of the troth
that has been plighted between us, ere I depart.”

“Nay,” answered Isabel, “it were better as yet that this
should be known to ourselves alone.”

IL—-A COURT GALLANT.

ON the morrow Gilbert Brent took leave of Melcomb; and as
XJ’ in those days, far more than in the present, a journey to or
from London was a matter of toil and danger, and not lightly to
be undertaken, many months must pass by before we shall
again see him at the home of his ancestors.

Meanwhile, at such rare opportunities as offered themselves,
he wrote letters to Mistress Isabel, in which, with many loving
words, he set forth his constancy towards her, and spoke with
much longing of the time when he should see her again. In
answer to these, Isabel at first sent other billets to the same
purpose, only more brief and ‘less warm; but after a time there
came a change, arising from certain causes of which I have now
to speak.

About the spring-time following that summer in which Gilbert
Brent had left Melcomb, there came to the neighbouring house
of Hilworth a young gallant, sister’s son to the then lord of that
place, and Piers Oversley by name. This young gentleman, who
might be some six-and-twenty years of age, was of comely
person; and having been from his youth engaged about the
court, he had the gay and chivalrous bearing which befitted his
breeding. - He gave out that he was wearied of the life of
pleasure which he had led, and that he desired to refresh himself
for a time in the quiet of his kinsman’s home: some, however,
there were ready to aver that he had taken part too freely in the
wild doings of Prince Henry, with his comrades, Sir John








52 The Green Hluntsman.

Falstaff and Master Poins; and that he came to Hilworth to be
for a time from under the eye of my Lord Chief-Justice, Sir
William Gascoigne.

He had not long been at Hilworth before he met with
Mistress Isabel Brent, and that through an adventure well
calculated to give him an interest and favour in her eyes.
Isabel, as we have seen, loved the river, and one day in the
May-time she desired to be rowed up the stream. Two of her
younger sisters, then but children, went with her, and their
attendant was Ralph Gurton, the ranger of the park—a man
whom she chose before all others, because to him and to his
wife Barbara, who had been her nurse, she was exceedingly
partial, and because they on their part were especially devoted
to her.

It was one of those warm and sunny days which so rarely
occur in May, but which, when they do come, are the most
delicious of the whole year. Scarcely a breeze stirred to ruffle
the water; the banks were gay with their fresh new green, and
bright with flowers; whilst the birds sang sweetly from every
bush and tree. Undoubtedly, as the boat passed point after point,
and glided along through windings of the stream unvisited by
her since the memorable day on which she had last been rowed
by her cousin Gilbert, Isabel’s thoughts reverted to him; yet, at
the same time, it may safely be affirmed that her lover occupied
a far less prominent place in her mind than the bright sunshine,
or the smiling landscape around her. Was it not natural that it
should be so? He had now been absent from her for many
months, and her kindly feelings towards him had never amounted
to anything like an absorbing passion, such as was his for her.

Close to the river's brink, upon the Hilworth side, stood a thick
clump of trees, and beneath them grew a mass of gaily-coloured
blossoms, which attracted the attention of the children. Isabel
desired Gurton to pull to the bank, that some of these flowers
might be gathered. The stout yeoman, to whom every wish of
his young mistress had the weight of law, at once obeyed; but
he did so in vain, for the coveted treasures were found to be still
beyond the reach of the impatient girls.






od

A Court Gallant. re

Determined that his young ladies should not be disappointed
of their wish, the ranger stepped on shore, and soon returned
with an abundance of posies; but in their haste to secure them,
at the moment he was again attempting to take his place in the
boat, his careless mistresses allowed it to slip from the bank, and
so plunged the unlucky Ralph in the water.

At the spot where this accident happened, Gurton might
easily have scrambled up the bank, had it occurred to him to
have done so; but unfortunately, in the confusion of the
moment, he retained his hold on the boat’s side, and was thus
carried away from the shore. However, he quickly recollected
himself, and seeing that his weight was in danger of causing the
craft to capsize, at last let it go; but he was now in deep water,
and in great peril of his life, and floundered helplessly in the
stream, to the no small alarm of Isabel and her little sisters.

Fortunately there was succour at hand. Before he had time
to become exhausted, a young and gallant-looking gentleman,
who, unseen by the occupants of the boat, had been walking
among the trees, strode quickly forward, and breaking down the
long, straight branch of a willow, flung its end to the sinking
man. Gurton grasped it, and Piers Oversley, for he it was,
without any apparent exertion or unwonted hurry, drew both
branch and man safely ashore.

Beyond imbibing more cold water than had passed his lips
for many a year past, the honest ranger was none the worse for
his bath, and Isabel steered the boat to the shore to take him
in. When she did so, the gallant, with a courteous air, expressed
his fears that after so narrow an escape her boatman might not
be able to fulfil his duties, and prayed her permission to take his
place; a proposal which Mistress Isabel at once declined, but at
the same time she thanked him warmly for the services he had
rendered. Ralph Gurton was not deficient in gratitude, but just
at the moment he had little spare wind for conversation.
Nevertheless, before the boat was finally shoved off, he found
voice to say to the gallant esquire, whose name and condition
were well known to him, “ Master Oversley, you have done a
right good service to a true yeoman, and be sure of this, that






54. The Green Fluntsman.



whenever the chance befalls, Ralph Gurton will not fail to do
you yeoman’s service in return.”

The ranger was not a man given to making rash promises,
but such promises as he made he was never known to break.



IIl.—-A NEW LOVE.

ep trate equipped with the fopperies of the age, though
%* not to excess—for he had much judgment in such light
matters—Master Piers Oversley presented himself next day at
Melcomb. He had ridden thither, he said, in the fear that
Mistress Isabel Brent and her sisters might have suffered by the
misadventure of yesterday, and had held it his devoir to make
enquiries with regard to them. I have said that on the fore-
going day he had made a favourable impression upon Isabel, and
assuredly that impression was increased and strengthened at this
their second meeting. It seemed to her that in many respects
he compared favourably with her absent cousin. The graceful
manners and manly bearing of the courtier of twenty-six were
not unnaturally pleasing in her eyes, when she contrasted them
with those of the half-formed scholar of twenty, and when it is
considered that in stature, and in comeliness of face and person,
the more mature gallant was no whit the least attractive of the
two.

The long absence of Gilbert Brent also had tended to weaken
any little tenderness which Isabel might have felt towards him;
it had never been any very perfect sympathy; and now, without
much violent mental conflict, she turned a willing ear to the
courtly compliments of his more splendid rival.

For that a rival he was, was soon made evident. He had,
after his manner, fallen in love with Isabel at first sight; not
with a deep, strong, unselfish passion like that of Gilbert—to a
man of his character and training that would have been an
impossibility—but still with a love which was perfectly genuine
so far as it went. That is to say, he was full of admiration for


A New Love. 55



her as the most beautiful maiden he had seen in the neighbour-
hood of Hilworth; and he conceived that there was no ‘pursuit
in which he could engage with so much enjoyment during his
forced retirement, as laying siege to her heart. Such were his
feelings at their first meeting ; but perhaps we shall see that, as
he follows the chase, he will become more seriously interested in
this pursuit than he had at first intended or imagined possible.

Piers Oversley soon became a frequent visitor at Melcomb.
At first, and whilst he came as a mere ordinary guest, he
received a hearty welcome from the hospitable esquire and Dame
Margaret Brent; but no sooner did the object of his visits
become manifest, than there was, in this respect, a complete
change. Whether the worthy lord of Melcomb did or did not
believe in the tales told to Oversley’s discredit, I cannot say, nor
whether, even if he did, he considered them as serious matters of
objection; but it is certain that this fine town gallant was by no
means the husband he desired for his daughter Isabel.

A plain, worthy gentleman was this Henry Brent, who,
though he was esteemed a man of good judgment in his own
proper affairs and those of his neighbours, cared little for public
business or great men, and who desired nothing so much as to
stand well-among his own people. That his “eldest daughter
should be wedded to some neighbouring gentleman of his own
standing, was a point upon which he had. altogether set his heart.
Had he ever thought of his poor kinsman, Gilbert Brent, as a
suitor for her hand, it would have vexed him sorely; but this
dainty courtier, with his fine airs, was far worse, and not to be
endured; he determined to be rid of him at once.

By the time, however, that he had formed this resolution, the
affair had proceeded much farther than he had supposed, and
Piers Oversley had become really in earnest. Explanations
followed, in which the gallant exerted himself to the utmost to
gain over Master Brent to his wishes; but it was in vain that
he urged his own brilliant prospects, and the advantageous posi-
tion which the daughter of his host might hope to attain by the
match; the lord of Melcomb was not a man to change from
resolutions once formed ; and, as the upshot of the interview,




56 The Green Huntsman.

Oversley learned that the doors of Melcomb would in future be
closed against him.

But a repulse of this nature, far from crushing the hopes of
the adventurous courtier, only incited him to follow his quest
with still greater eagerness. He had reason for knowing that
there was no aversion to himself on the part of Mistress Isabel,
and since he could not woo and win her openly, he would do so
in secret. He looked round him for some agent through whom
he might safely and privately communicate with her, and at this
juncture thought of Ralph Gurton.

On the evening which followed his unsuccessful interview
with Brent, therefore, to Gurton’s cottage he took his way. The
ranger lived quite on the outskirts of the park, and by choosing
the hour of twilight in which to seek him, and by well drawing
his hood about his face, Oversley doubted not but that he should
escape, as for obvious reasons he wished to do, the observation
of any of the family or dependants of Melcomb.

With Ralph Gurton the reader has already some acquaintance.
He was a sturdy yeoman, slightly past the middle age, and
of an upright, determined, but somewhat stolid character. He
was sitting within, fitting his cross-bow with a new string, whilst
Barbara was busy with her spinning-wheel, when Oversley
knocked at the door. The rough voice of the ranger bade his
unknown guest “lift the latch and enter ;’ the visitor, however,
chose rather to open the door but a hand-breadth’s space, and to
summon Gurton forth to speak with him. Thus bidden, honest
Ralph rose and went out.

“Tt is I,” said the gallant, “ Piers Oversley ; I have somewhat
to say to you, and the matter is for your ears alone.”

«Say on then, noble sir, you need fear no eaves-droppers ;
for, save Barbara’s and our own, there are no ears within many a
bowshot of this place.”

“Tt is well, then; we will pace under these trees. Listen,

Ralph Gurton; you are a man who may be trusted, I shall speak

”



with you frankly : you owe me some service

“ And am ready to pay my debts, Master Oversley,” chimed
in the ranger. “I had been a drowned man but for you; and,






A New Love. By



saving my duty to my master and my master’s house, whatever
I can do is at your command.”

“{ doubt it not; and, therefore, I speak freely to you of
things that I would name to no other man, Look you, your
young mistress and I would fain wed each other, but J am hated
by her father, and shall be no more suffered to enter his house.
What I ask of you is this, that you should find means whereby
we may send to each other, and, if need be, meet.”

The ranger drew his hand across his forehead, and paused
before he answered. “ Master Oversley,” he said, “in doing this,
I should be doing false and evil service toomy lord =

“For atime he might think so,” replied the gallant ; “ but in
the end you would do “him better service than he is willing to do
himself, for you will help his daughter to a better match than
he will ever fashion for her.”

“This may well be as you say,” said Ralph ; “yet it seems
that I may lose my master’s good opinion in the meanwhile, and
that I were loth to risk.”

“You do well to consider your master,’ was the answer ;
“but you must think of your young mistress also. Remember
that Mistress Isabel’s will is wholly set upon this matter; and if
no way of forwarding it be found, she will be heart- broken, and
pine away, Ralph Gurton.”

“ The saints forbid, the saints forbid |” said the honest ranger ;
and then, as though struck by a happy thought, he added, “ Since
this is a business which mainly concerns “Mistress Isabel, why
should we stand here talking of it in the dark ? Come into my
cottage, noble sir; you may trust Barbara to the death in aught
that concerns her young mistress, whom she loves more than
she would have loved our own child, if—Heaven rest it !—it had
iiveds i anything i is to be done in this matter, you may trust
her woman’s wit for carrying it through.”

Gurton was in the right; for no sooner had the case been laid
open to Barbara, than ‘she at once found arguments to over-
power her husband’s objections. Barbara was not troubled with
unnecessary scruples herself, and she was accustomed to lead,
and to mark out a way for her slower eae es er re eae see aie al To her there
58 The Green Huntsman.



was no higher ideal of duty than pleasing her young mistress,
and beyond this, the prospect of bearing part in an intrigue was
too captivating an idea to be resisted. Thus it was that
Oversley obtained promises of active assistance and perfect
secrecy.

Before the gallant left the cottage, he pressed a golden angel
into Barbara’s unresisting palm; and as the ranger bade him
“God speed” at the door, he would fain have given to hima like
proof of his generosity; but worthy Ralph would none of it.
“No, no, Master Oversley,” he said ; “I am your debtor, and in
what I shall do for you, I shall seek to pay off the kindness you
have done to me: [| ask not for your money. If I, being a poor
man, suffer loss of place in your service, then I shall look to your
nobleness to provide forme. Beyond this, I ask for nothing ;”
and with these words, the ranger turned back into his house.



IV.—THE OLD LOVE.

YNREAT part of a year had gone by since Gilbert Brent had
XM left Melcomb. For some time past his few packets from
Isabel, brief and far apart as they were, had been so cold and
distant as greatly to trouble him; but the crowning point was
now put to his distress by a letter which he received from her.
In this document she calmly gave him to understand that for
many reasons it was impossible that they should ever be united,
and that they must forget that troth had ever been plighted
between them. Upon this decision of hers he was to look as
final and irrevocable, and any attempt on his part to renew their
intercourse as lovers would provoke her deepest displeasure.
Above all things, she insisted that he should not as yet think of
visiting Melcomb. After awhile, when both of them could look
with indifference on the childish folly of which they had been
guilty, not one of all her kindred should she welcome with so
much joy as Gilbert ; but at present, his appearance there would
be an offence which she could never forgive.


The Old Love.

59



To the misery caused by this epistle was added no small
degree of perplexity as to what course it was best to pursue.
| Gilbert Brent’s was a deep and strong nature, and he was not
| given to change through mere absence or lapse of time. His
| love was to him the better part of his existence, and death would
have been easier than renouncing it. He must shake her reso-
lution, but to do so he must see her, and to see her he must at
once goto Melcomb. Her displeasure would have to be braved ;
; but no matter, it was his only hope. He would set out at once.

Accordingly, to Melcomb he came. His arrival was, of

course, wholly unlooked for. The esquire was from home, but
from Dame Margaret he received the same kind and motherly
greeting as of old; from which he inferred that Isabel’s letter
was not written with the knowledge of her parents. Uncertain
as he was of the nature of his reception, he was most impatient
to meet with his cousin; and when he heard that she was alone
| inthe pleasaunce, he hurried out to seek her.
| Since the days of Hugh Massenger, the old manor-house at
Melcomb had in many ways been enlarged and altered, but the
| pleasaunce still remained as it had ever been. Isabel Brent was
now taking the air in the same quaint and dainty paradise,
| bordered by the same trim hedges of clipped yew, as that in
which we have seen her ancestress moving among her doves well-
nigh a century before; but, alas! the daughter of the house of
| Melcomb who now walked there was a far different maiden to
| the simple and gentle Alice Massenger.
When Gilbert entered the enclosure, he saw that Isabel was
trifling with the flowers at the farther end, but she gave no sign
that she was aware of his presence. Presently she turned and
moved slowly towards the house, but Gilbert was still apparently
unobserved. Gathering a rose, he stepped forward to meet her,
| and with doffed cap, bending on his knee, he proffered his rose.
| His graceful gallantry was thrown away; without deigning him
| word or look, she swept past. “Isabel!” he cried; “ sweetest
| Cousin Isabel, for old kindness’ sake do not use me thus!” But
she had passed into the house, and was gone.

Gilbert had looked for no very gentle reception; he had










































60 The Green Huntsman.



expected that certain reproachful speeches would have to be
borne before he could make his peace with his cousin; but to be
ignored in this manner was more than he had calculated upon,
and his temper was sorely ruffled. Crushing the unlucky rose
between his hands, he strode from the pleasaunce across the
park, and deep into the wood.

He did so almost involuntarily, yet he could not have done a
wiser thing. It gave him time for enough solitary reflection to
bring conviction that anger against his cousin was worse than folly.
A reconciliation was the one thing he had to live for, and an
angry altercation with her at this juncture would ruin his hopes
for ever. He would be calm, patient, moderate, and give her no
grounds on which to fix a quarrel. Doubtless she would try to
avoid speaking with him in private, but he would watch his
occasion, and by some means or other gain an interview ; then
he would soothe her, would overcome her objections, and woo
her anew. In the end, all would yet be well.

In this mood he returned to the house.

V.—THE STONE HUNTING LODGE.

ee opportunity which our scholar had promised himself did
not occur that day, nor the next. He saw Isabel, indeed,
before the other members of the family, in whose presence she
was simply cold and distant; but she took care that he should
never meet her alone.

The third day was far advanced when his kinsman suggested
that they should walk to see his newly-made fish-ponds. Gilbert
assented, and they strolled down towards the river, from which
the recently-formed stews were to be supplied bya sluice. They
had almost reached the point of interest, when the young lawyer
turned, and happened to cast his eyes on the rising ground which
sloped upwards on the opposite side of the house. A solitary
female figure was climbing the brow of the hill, and this figure
must be Isabel, for on this point his eyes could not deceive him ;


THE ROSE.

On, DAINTY ROSE, most fair, meet for my love to wear,
Therefore, for her sweet sake, do 1 so cherish thee!

She scorns thee? Then let fall thy painted petals all,
Thou hast no more perfume, no more bright hues for me.



LESS THAN KIND.


a

ee




The Stone Hunting Lodge. 63



another moment, and she was lost among the thick trees which
crowned the bank.

“She must have watched us leave the house,” he thought,
“ and then set out at once. She is gone to the favourite haunt
of her girlhood, the Old Stone Hunting Lodge, and now is the
time when I may speak to her without interruption.” Saying
this to himself, he made some trifling excuse to his kinsman, and
set off at a rapid pace towards the hill.

The trees covering the summit of the ridge among which
Isabel had disappeared formed the outskirt of Melcomb Wood,
and alittle beyond them was a hollow, the level bottom of which,
though surrounded by thick woodland, was, for the space of
about a rood, open and grassy. In the midst of this sylvan dell
an abundant spring of fair water bubbled up, and then flowed
down a stony channel to be lost in the thicket. On a slight
elevation above the spring and its surrounding green sward,
stood the sequestered building already alluded to.

The Old Stone Hunting Lodge had been originally built by
Giles Brent, shortly after he had emparked Melcomb Wood and
the surrounding lands; and by him both it and the neighbouring
well had been sportively dedicated to St. Eustace. He had built
it that he might, in this secluded place, listen to the belling of
his harts, a sound in which he took great delight ; but since his
day it had seldom been frequented by his descendants, except
for the sake of occasional shelter when hunting or fowling, and
hence, instead of St. Eustace Lodge, it had gained its present
name.

Although of small size—for twenty paces would have girthed
it round—it was, like most works of that day, curiously built and
ornamented, after the fashion of what those studious of archi-
tecture have, from its want of classical simplicity and beauty,
aptly termed “ Gothic ;” and was, therefore, to us who have the
advantage of an acquaintance with the noble works of the
ancients, a building worthy only of contempt; although I under-
stand that Mr. Gray, the poet, and his friend Mr. Horace
Walpole, have the singular taste to admire, and the latter even
to imitate, such efforts of an unpolished age.
a ee ee
64 The Green Huntsman.

This lodge was of an eight-sided shape ; four of the walls were
pierced by arches, one of which contained the door, whilst the
other three were filled with quarries of fair glass; and in the
four walls which alternated with these, similar arches formed, as
it were, large panels, which had been filled with figures of men,
horses, dogs, and deer, painted, after the barbarous fashion of
the age, from the legend of St. Eustace; but these had been
greatly defaced by time. The roof overhead was of stone, and
curiously fretted ; whilst round the walls ran a range of stone
benches, on which those who loved such cold and hard seats
might lie or sit at their ease.

From the top of the hill towards Melcomb the roof of this
building might plainly be seen, through the tree-tops, lying less
than half a bowshot below; but to reach it from thence, owing
to the steepness of the descent, a winding pathway of some
length had to be taken. Gilbert had hastily climbed the bank,
and would have hurried down at still greater speed, had he met
with no hindrance; but much to his vexation, just at this very
point, he met with the ranger, Ralph Gurton.

The worthy Ralph was loitering among the trees, cross-bow
in hand, and apparently on the look-out for his old enemies, the
kites and polecats. Gilbert would fain have avoided him, but
this was out of the question; for the ranger, though not usually
garrulous, seemed on this occasion so bent on talking, that one
might almost have suspected him of an express design to delay
the scholar’s progress. Gilbert began to fear that he should
have to hear reports on the health and prosperity of all the
animals under Gurton’s charge, from deer downwards; and
writhing under the infliction, was about to burst away abruptly,
on the plea that he must hasten to the Old Lodge, when the
ranger exclaimed suddenly, “Ha, are you there, my master !”
and, levelling his cross-bow, discharged it. “A bad shot, a bad
shot !” he said, a moment afterwards. “’Twas a windhover on
the roof of the lodge yonder, but I missed her.”

Gilbert had looked in the direction of the shot, but possibly
his eyes were less keen than those of the ranger, for no bird had
been seen by him at the place indicated.












Parley. 65



VIL— PARLEY.

eee had not erred in his conjecture. It was Isabel he
3G had seen on the hill, and she was bound for the Old Stone
Hunting Lodge. But it was not that she might indulge in solitary
sorrow that she went there; the lodge had already an occu-
pant. As she entered, Master Piers Oversley came forward,
and, bending gaily on one knee, kissed her hand. “ Most sweet
Mistress Isabel,” he said, “in obedience to the mandate brought
by your trusty Mercury, I was at this place two hours before
sunset. Save that I had the flames of love to warm me, [|
should have suffered much from cold in this chilly vault, and the
time which ever seems long when I wait for you, seemed as
though it would never pass by.”

“ Patience is a virtue much to be commended in lovers,”
answered the lady; “ yet I had kept my time had all been well.
But my loving and much-misused cousin, of whom I have told
you, is now at Melcomb, and I had little will for him to see me
come hither.”

“Nay, fair lady, seek not for excuses; your coming has
now richly rewarded my virtue of patience. No harm shall
come of the delay, unless, indeed, it may have wearied our
valiant sentinel, and caused him to leave his post.”

“Fear not for that,” replied Isabel; “the trusty Ralph is
still on guard, and now truly we shall need him more than ever.
This bookish stripling is ever on the watch to follow and speak
with me, a thing which I most study to avoid. Would he were
anywhere but at Melcomb !”

“ Nay, be not angry with the youngling, fair Mistress Isabel.
Schoolboys are ever troublesome unless they are chastised ; and
as for this one, if he is too forward, I shall take upon myself to
correct him.”

“ And if he invite the rod, I shall not be the fond kinswoman
to shield him from punishment,” said Isabel, with a laugh.

“He shall be well whipped,” continued he, “and with his
whipping we will send the truant away; for he wastes our golden






66 The Green Huntsman.



moments, fair Mistress Isabel, in which we might well speak of
better matters, and chiefly as to our flight. I have appointed
all things needful for it.”

“ Scarcely so, Master Piers Oversley, since you have as yet
to gain my consent thereto.”

“ As to that, I shall ask it in so winning a manner,” said the
gallant, bending forward and giving a delicate salute to her lips,
“that I doubt not of obtaining it. Then, as I said, all things
needful are appointed, and But how now, what is this ?”

At that instant something struck the roof of the lodge sharply.

“°Tis Gurton’s signal; someone comes this way,” said Isabel.

“ Without doubt ’twas his cross-bow bolt, and we must part
before we have fairly spoken,” answered Oversley. “A thou-
sand sorrows light on the intruder !”

“Spare your maledictions,” she said, “or rather change them
for farewells, for you must at once away.”

“ Too true, sweet Mistress Isabel, and so adieu.”

In another instant he had disappeared in the wood.

He had scarcely passed from sight, when Gilbert Brent
descended into the dell, and approached the lodge. “I was
right,” he thought, as he observed that the door stood partially
open, “Isabel is here;” and then, slightly tapping before he
entered, but without waiting for any response, he passed in.

Isabel was sitting, with her hands before her face, on one of
the stone benches. He supposed at first that she had been
weeping; but when she removed her hands, no traces of tears
were to be seen. Knowing, as he did, that he was forcing his
unwelcome presence upon the maiden whom he most desired to
conciliate, he paused for a moment to consider in what words it
were best to address her; but his hesitation was needless.
Now she was fairly brought to bay, Isabel Brent was not one to
shrink from the position ; she turned upon him at once.

“T came hither,” she said, ‘‘ because I desired to be alone;
this intrusion is another proof of the regard you have for my
wishes, Master Gilbert Brent.”

“Cousin Isabel,” he answered, in a gentle tone, “I have
indeed followed you to this place, and, as you say, knowing that






Parley. 67



my presence was undesired ; but, Isabel, my love for you has
driven me to this discourtesy, and for that and for old kindness’
sake you must pardon me.”

“Talk not to me of love,” said she, sharply ; “true love is
loyal and obeys, but you seek only to cross and thwart me !”

“ Not so, Cousin Isabel ; I only seek to win your goodwill. I
have ridden a hundred miles to ask forgiveness for any fault I
may have committed, and now, is it generous of you to deny me
a hearing ?”

“ And what good,” she answered, “ should come of my hear-
ing you? It would be but opening old griefs anew. I have
told you already that our childish love-making must be forgotten.
I have told you that this was my resolution, and that it could not
be changed. And I have told you in a manner not to be mis-
taken. After this you have no right to force yourself into my
presence.”

“ Isabel,” said Gilbert, “ you speak to me inanger. If I had
shown myself so careless of you as to renounce you without an
effort, you would have had good cause for your indignation. I
have only proved the depth of my love for you; you must not,
cannot, be angry with me for this.”

“And if not, have I much cause to be pleased with you
otherwise? Did I not charge you above all things not to
present yourself at Melcomb at this unhappy moment, and how
have you kept my charge ?”

“Tfear me, cousin,” said Gilbert; “I have no wish to defend
myself at the cost of a dispute with you. I came to Melcomb,
as I came to this lodge to-day, because I must speak with you,
because I cannot give you up, because you and your love are
more to me than my life. How could I tell you this, how
could I force you to believe me in earnest, without seeing
you? As the saints are above us, dearest Isabel, I desire not
to vex you; I wish only to lay open my whole heart before you,
to discover and remove whatever cause of bitterness you may
have against me, and to win once more such a promise of your
love as I received when we plighted our troth among the lilies
of yonder stream.”






68 The Green Huntsman.



As Gilbert was passionately uttering these words, he thought
he saw some traces of tenderness, some signs of rising tears, in
Isabel’s eyes; but as he ended, he observed her looking with
such a startled expression towards one of the windows, as to
cause him involuntarily to turn his eyes in the same direction.
The shades of evening fell early in that deep woodland hollow,
and the twilight was already darkening the lodge, yet he could
not be mistaken; the face of a man was looking in upon
them through the broken quarries.

He stepped forward, but the apparition had disappeared ; he
sprang to the door and looked round, but the dim solitary dell .
was as quiet as though it had never been crossed by human .
footstep.

“Saw you nothing ?” he asked, as he returned to his cousin.

“Something passed the window,” she answered in a cold
tone, “ but I saw nothing distinctly; it may have been an owl.”

“ T cannot have been deceived,” said Gilbert; “what I saw
was plainly a face, a man’s face.”

“ Quite likely,” she replied in the same uninterested manner ;
“and if so, it was doubtless that of Ralph; he has charge to
watch over my solitary walks.”

“Tt was not Ralph,” was the reply ; “ but it is gone, and let
it pass ;” and with that Gilbert endeavoured to return to that
point of the conversation at which the interruption had occurred.

“ And now,” he said, “ dear Cousin Isabel, you must tell me
by what fault I drew upon myself the letter which has caused all
this wretchedness. I ask for no revelations which may affect
you; I only ask to know what I have done amiss that I may
amend it, and again gain your goodwill as of old.”

But all the tenderness had passed from Isabel’s eyes now.
“T charge you with no faults,” she said in a hard tone as she rose
from her seat ; “and I offer no explanations. We will waste no
more idle words here; suffice it that you and I can never be
lovers again. Once more’! freely resign the troth you gave;
restore me mine.”

“Isabel! Isabel!” he cried; “you ask an impossibility. I
cannot renounce you.”






War Declared. 69

“Give me back my troth,” she continued, moving towards
the door, “and we will be friends; refuse me—cross me, and |
shall be your enemy.”

“T cannot give you back your troth,” he gasped. “TI cannot
lie to you, and say I will not love you. I must and will while I
have life !”

“Then we shall not be friends,” she said, and left him alone
in the lodge.



Vil.—WAR DECLARED.

¥VSABEL’S declaration of war was no empty threat. If during
#& her conversation with her cousin she had ever, as he
imagined, in any degree softened towards him, it was but a
momentary emotion, to be soon replaced by redoubled bitterness
at the obstinacy which he afterwards showed. Far from being
flattered by his unswerving devotion towards her, she was
annoyed at what she looked upon as his perverse persistency ;
partly, perhaps, because he was himself by this time grown
hateful to her, and partly because she feared that he might arouse
the jealousy of Piers Oversley, and prove a means of separating
her from the man on whom she had now set her heart. In some
way or other she was determined to shake him off.

Of the love passages which had occurred between his
daughter and his kinsman, the lord of Melcomb had, as we have
seen, known nothing. He was therefore greatly surprised when,
on the morning which followed the meeting at the Stone Hunt-
ing Lodge, Isabel related the whole matter to him, with much
apparent frankness, expressing, at the same time, the deepest
contrition for her own folly, and asking for his protection from
any future persecutions on the part of her cousin Gilbert.

An hour later.the scholar was summoned to his kinsman’s
presence, and charged by him with the offence of clandestinely
making love to his daughter. That Gilbert’s conduct had been
in any way underhand in the matter was not, as has been shown,







BRAS scree Va i eR






70 . The Green Huntsman.



his own fault; but this he could not assert without throwing
blame on Isabel, and he could not therefore clear his own
character as he might otherwise have done; whilst he made no
attempt to deny the fact of his love. But to Henry Brent’s
demand that he should then and for ever resign all pretensions
to Isabel, he answered that his troth was once plighted, and he
could not revoke it; and that he could not make a promise which
he had not the power over himself to keep honourably.

Henry Brent had many good qualities, but a patient temper
was not included among them. He was deeply incensed at this
answer of his kinsman, and at once bade him leave the place, and
never again darken the doors of Melcomb.

Had Gilbert been guided by his natural good sense, rather
than by his love, he would at this juncture have acknowledged
himself beaten, and would have withdrawn from the field. But
he was under the influence of a power which forbade him to
surrender Isabel, or even to leave the neighbourhood in which
he might still hope to see her. He fondly flattered himself that
had not his interview with her been so strangely interrupted, he
might have brought it to a favourable issue, and that could he
again prevail on her to speak with him, he might still hope for
success. In any case, speak to her he must; to leave the neigh-
bourhood without doing so would be more than he could bear.

It would be vain to say that the idea of his mistress having
another and a more favoured lover had never crossed his mind.
Naturally, this was one of the many conjectures by which he had
endeavoured to account for the change in her feelings towards
himself; but he had heard and seen nothing calculated to bear
out such a surmise, and had therefore dismissed it from his
thoughts as unworthy of himself and of her. Certainly, he never
imagined that her visit to the Old Lodge was to meet a rival ; nor
had the face at the window raised any such suspicion ; indeed,
he was more than half inclined to attribute that appearance to
some supernatural cause, for the patronage of St. Eustace had
not been sufficient to save the hollow from the reputation of
being haunted, even in those days.

Instead, therefore, of returning to London, Gilbert took up his




War Declared. 71

abode in a hostelry not far from Melcomb, and watched and
waited till chance should afford him that opportunity of speaking
with his cousin for which he so much longed. He did not doubt
but that the Old Stone Hunting Lodge would still at times be
frequented by her, as it had always been; and it was there that
he resolved chiefly to seek her.

At no great distance from the nominal domains of St. Eustace,
a large oak—of note as an ancient landmark—stood half within
and half without the pale of Melcomb Park ; and to Gilbert, by
whom every nook and corner around Melcomb were known, it
suggested itself as affording a place at which the park might be
entered with ease and secrecy. Unknown to him, Piers Oversley
had also, by Gurton’s advice, made use of it for the same
purpose, as well as employing it for another, which it may be well
to mention at this place.

Any billet which that gallant desired to send to Mistress
Isabel he deposited in the hollow of this tree, which he did
without entering the park, or arousing suspicion. It was then
within reach of Gurton, who could from his own side of the
barrier take it from its hiding-place, and convey it to his wife,
from whom it reached the hands of her lady; whilst the reverse
of this arrangement conveyed Isabel’s own missives to her lover.
It was to Barbara’s invention that this contrivance was due.

But as Gilbert made the old tree a means of climbing into
the forbidden Eden, he knew nothing of those weapons for his
own wounding which its trunk might contain. Twice he thus
scaled the park palings, and without result; the third time he
was more successful. As he stole unseen along the brow of the
hill, he first observed the ranger, his cross-bow on his arm,
sauntering leisurely in the direction of his cottage, and a moment
afterwards he became aware that Isabel was herself climbing the
steep path from the dell.

The better to escape observation, Gilbert had disguised
himself in a green hunting suit instead of his ordinary attire, so
that through the branches Isabel did not see, or, in any case,
recognise him, till she was close upon him; but the expression
which her beautiful face then assumed was not one to encourage










at

72 The Green Hluntsman.



a despairing lover. Gilbert could see in it nothing but hatred
and aversion. If she could have passed him without pausing or
unclosing her lips she would have done so; but this he did not
permit. He stood right in front of her in the middle of the
path. “Isabel!” he said only, and held out his hand beseech- |
ingly towards her.

But she took no notice of the proffered token of amity. “How
dare you,” she said, “thus like a robber to waylay and stop me ?
Stand aside, and hinder me not, Gilbert Brent !”

“Cousin Isabel!” he cried, passionately; “hear me, hear me!
I must speak with you; for this once give me a hearing!”

“JT have heard you too much already,” she answered,
haughtily. “Stand out of my way, or I call to yonder yeoman.
He carries his cross-bow, and knows his duty towards such as
break into his master’s park.”

“Qh, Isabel!” he cried again, as he mechanically obeyed her
gesture, and fell back ; “can nothing move you? Have you no
memory of old times?” But she passed on, and left him standing
alone and motionless.

She proceeded for a few steps. She heard his appeal, but
did not heed it; instead of it her own last words were ringing in
her ears— He carries his cross-bow, and knows his duty towards
such as break into his master’s park.” Wer own hasty threat had
suggested a resolution to her. She stopped, turned round, and
beckoned him to approach.

“Will nothing satisfy you,” she said, “that you thus persecute
me—nothing but giving you another interview ?”

“T must speak with you again, Cousin Isabel.”

“Then I will give you one. To-morrow, half-an-hour after
sunset, come to the Old Stone Hunting Lodge. I will be there
alone.”

“TY shall not fail,” he said; “no, not if it should cost me my
life.”

“ But listen,” she continued ; “my father, in his anger against
you, has given orders that no intruder shall be allowed to enter
the park; yet Ralph Gurton will do as I bid him. Come
to-morrow in the same hunter’s dress that you wear to-day, and








4 Shot with the Cvross-bow. 73

the ranger will be blind to your being Gilbert Brent, and know
you only as the Green Huntsman who will come to meet me. If
he hail you, answer only, “I go thither,” and point towards the
old lodge, and for that he shall let you pass; remember this.”

So saying, she again turned, and walked hastily down the hill.

As she passed by Ralph Gurton, she half paused that she
might acquaint him with the design she was plotting, and secure
his co-operation ; but, on second thoughts, she hurried onwards.
“ Better | should not open the subject to him,” she said to her-
self, “I will place him in the hands of one whose influence over
him is more complete than mine.”

That evening Barbara was summoned to a consultation with
her young mistress. It will not be necessary to set down all
that passed between them. Barbara’s parting words will suffi-
ciently indicate their drift. They were—“ Fear nothing, sweet

ne; I shall so order Ralph that he shall do his part; and he
never needs to shoot two bolts at the same deer.”

VILA SHOT WITIL THE CROSS-BOW.

SKeNYONE less infatuated than Gilbert Brent would have seen
AX enough in Isabel’s manner to have felt his hopes utterly
crushed ; but an interview with her was just then the one object
he desired. She had made him an assignation, and however
ungraciously she had done it, he rejoiced in it. He had said
truly that he would rather have died than failed; and with a
heart lighter than it had been for many a day past, he set forth
to keep the appointment.

He had almost reached the old oak tree, which has before
been mentioned, when he was startled by seeing some person
standing close to its bole, and apparently quite unaware of his
approach. The person in question was none other than Piers
Oversley, who was at the moment groping in the hollow trunk
for an expected letter of Isabel’s. As he drew it out he turned,
and, as he did so, suddenly found himself face to face with










74 The Green Huntsman.



his rival. Once only had Oversley seen that rival before, and
his solitary glance at him had been through the shattered
quarries of the window of the Old Hunting Lodge; but we may
be well sure that on the occasion in question he had taken good
note of his features, and was in no danger of forgetting them
readily.

Oversley was startled, but not to the same extent as Gilbert,
who, when the stranger turned round, at once recognised the face
he had seen in the window. There was no question now as to
its being other than real flesh and blood; and in a moment the
true nature of this man’s motive for haunting the neighbourhood
of the lodge flashed upon his mind. The billet he held in his
hand was convincing proof. It was a rival then that had caysed
all this misery, and that rival stood before him. Gilbert felt that
he could have made at his throat, and worried him like a wild
beast.

It may have been that in his heart Piers Oversley was not a
whit more peaceably disposed than Gilbert, but he was an older
man, and had been bred at court. The young scholar’s hand
had involuntarily strayed to the pummel of his sword. Piers did
nothing of the kind; he merely raised his own, and, doffing his cap,
made a low, and, as his rival thought, a somewhat sarcastic bow,
saying, as he did so, “ Here, then, it is my good hap to meet
that clerkly Master Gilbert Brent of whom I have heard so
much.”

Gilbert was in no mood for empty courtesies, and the salute
with which he returned that of Oversley was so stiff as to be
scarce perceptible. ‘“ How, or whence,” he said, “my name may
have reached you I am ignorant, yet such it is; of yours I know
nothing, and nothing do I care to know.”

“ Nevertheless, Sir Scholar, I shall gladly make myself known
to you. Piers Oversley is my name, a poor esquire, and
much at your clerkship’s service. Nay, disdain not my fellow-
ship; we have, as it would seem, a common interest, and there-
fore should be friends.”

“T know nothing of the common interest you speak of, and
desire none of your friendship,” said Gilbert, bluntly.








A Shot with the Cross-bow. a



“Ah!” replied the courtier; “can you be ignorant that I
speak of the favour of fair Mistress Isabel Brent, to which we
both would seem to be aspirants ?”

The smile and the sarcastic politeness of the tone in which
Oversley delivered this was ten times more irritating to his rival
than any professed rudeness could have been ; and his temper,
already under no very strong control, now fairly burst forth.
“ Hark you, Master Piers Oversley,” he cried; “since by your
own showing you are my supplanter and my enemy, as such
alone will I meet you. Draw, if you are a man, and defend
yourself!” and Gilbert’s weapon flew from its scabbard.

“Nay, gentle youth,’ answered Oversley, in the same
unruffled tone; “be not too fast. I see no ground fora quarrel.
If you have lost, and I have won favour with this lady, I have
more reason to pity than harm you; also, it would be little to
my mind to do violence to any kinsman of Mistress Isabel Brent.
Put up your iron; there is no cause for a quarrel betwixt us two.”

“No cause for a quarrel!” cried Gilbert, fiercely; “then let
this be one!” and, so saying, he flung his glove with all his force
in the other’s face.

The blood rushed to Oversley’s cheeks and forehead, and he
crushed the offending glove beneath his heel with a gesture of
contempt; yet he still retained his composure, and said, in even
a more quiet tone than before, “You are in the right, young
man; there is good ground for a quarrel now. Therefore look
to your life, as he may well need to do who crosses swords with
Piers Oversley.”

Gilbert needed no second bidding, and he flew upon his rival
as fiercely as a wild cat. He was young, strong, and active;
but Oversley had made no idle boast of his swordsmanship, and
the young scholar’s fury expended itself in vain. At first
Oversley simply stood on the defensive, and then, when his
opponent had exhausted himself, by a well-directed lunge he
stretched him bleeding at his feet.

To a man like Piers Oversley, who had taken part in at least
a dozen such scenes as this, the result brought no particular
feelings of horror or remorse. He had wished to chastise








76 The Green Fluntsman.

Gilbert Brent, and he had done so, though perhaps rather more
severely than he had intended. He scarcely would have wished
his deed undone, even had such a thing been possible. And
yet he was not a man devoid of kindly human feelings; for now
when his antagonist was disabled he would gladly have given
him any help in his power. He raised the young man’s head
upon his knee, and tried to stanch the blood which was flowing

freely.
Gilbert could see that all this was meant in kindness ; but
he shook his head. “It is in vain,” he said; “I am going fast.

Only give me your hand, and hear what I have to say. I hold
you guiltless of my death, which has been altogether of my own
seeking; and now, if you would have a dying man’s blessing,
promise to do one thing for me.”

“ Anything that I can in reason do,” said Oversley, “ shall
be done; on the word of a gentleman.”

“ Know, then,” continued Gilbert, in a low tone, “that I was
even now on my way to the Old Stone Lodge, there to meet with
Isabel Brent. I had solemnly pledged myself to be there, and
not to fail. Go now, and tell her that to the death I was
constant to my love, and that my last words and thoughts were
of her. Say, also, that now I give her back her troth.”

At these words Oversley gave a start, which drew a groan
from the wounded man.

“ Stay,” he went on, in a yet more feeble voice, “there is
danger on the way. A watch has been set by my kinsman, and
whosoever breaks his park will be slain. Put on these my green
doublet and cap. The Green Huntsman will be known and
spared. If any man bids you stay, point to the lodge, and say,
‘I go thither,’ and you will be let pass.”

“All this I shall bear in mind,” replied the other, as he
assumed the disguise.

“Tt is well,” said Gilbert; “haste thee away then, and do my
bidding ;” and then, falling back, he became unconscious.

A pang of jealousy, and a feeling of distrust in Isabel’s good
faith, had stung Oversley as Gilbert had told of her assignation
with himself; and he would have burned to meet her that he


A Shot with the Cross-bow. vey,

might test her feelings towards his een oe if for no other
reason; but there were other motives which made him gladly
hasten to perform his promise. “Something of my old good
luck is still left to me,” he said to himself, as he strode across
the park. “The youngling has fallen in fair fight; yet none
saw it, and some men there are who may call the deed murder ;
therefore I must from Hilworth till the matter be forgotten or
made smooth; so, save for this happy chance—this ill-starred
stripling’s story and his disguise-—-I must have gone, and seen
no more of Isabel. Now I hasten to her at once, and plan how
she may join me; nay, if all go well, she shall fly with me this
very night.”

Busied with such thoughts as these, he reached the outskirts
of the wood. The grey light of evening still glimmered about
the open spaces of the park; but under the trees the dark
shadows were gathering apace. “I must hasten on,” he thought,
“or Isabel will weary of waiting in yonder dreary hollow ;” ‘and
he hurried on into the thickening x gloom of the woodland path,

Near that spot—twice before mentioned—where the winding
way descended to the Old Stone Hunting Lodge, half hidden by
underwood, and with his back against a tree, stood Ralph
Gurton. For an hour past he had “been standing there with his
cross-bow ready bent in his hand. The stout ranger had under-
taken an office which he abhorred from the bottom of his soul ;
but he had been led to believe it was his duty, and he had
undertaken it, and would not shrink. He stood there sullenly
determined to perform it to the uttermost. Yet as the twilight
deepened, and the night drew rapidly on, his heart beat more
freely. ‘“ The saints “be praised!” he muttered at last. “The
time is well-nigh past, and he comes not. He will not come now.”

An instant later he saw that he had congratulated himself
too quickly, for a figure came hastily down the path, and in the
uncertain light the ranger thought that he could make out a
green cap and hunting-dress. “It is the Green Huntsman,” he
thought, and levelled ae bow. A moment afterwards he let it fall
again, and his breath came more freely, for surely the step and
bearing were Piers Oversley’s, and not those of the man he had




78 The Green Fluntsman.



been taught to expect. “I will hail him,” he said to himself;
“for therein lies my surest test;” and then aloud—“ Ho! who-
ever passes there; stand, in King Henry’s name, or I shoot!”

But the Green Huntsman paid no obedience to his summons,
and hurried on, only answering as he went, and pointing down
the way, “I go thither.”

“Then,” said the ranger, slowly, “your blood be upon your
own head!” and with that he discharged his piece.

Barbara said truly that her husband never shot twice at the
same deer. In another second Piers Oversley lay dead across
the path, with a cross-bow quarrel through his brain.

Little more of this history remains to be told, except that
Gilbert Brent did not die of the severe wound given him by his
rival, but survived it many years. Shortly after his recovery he
entered the Church; and by his learning and excellent parts, so
advanced himself therein that he has always been looked upon
by us as one of the ornaments of our family. | His cousin Isabel
he never saw again. That unhappy lady was sent to a convent,
and there, not many years afterwards, she died, less, it was said,
of any bodily ailment than of sorrow and remorse.








ENE RO GUE ir.

Po:



YROM the time of the above tragical event, a considerable
space intervenes before any incidents of a private nature,
of sufficient interest to find a place in this chronicle, are
noted in our family annals. Nor do I gather that any of the name
of Brent gained special distinction in public affairs throughout the
earlier and greater part of the Wars of the Roses. In those
times, our ancestors would seem to have simply followed the
leadership of their powerful neighbour the Earl of Warwick, and
to have changed sides whenever he thought proper to do so; in
which line of conduct they were no doubt guided by a politic
regard for the safety of their own house and lands, and not by
any strong leaning towards either of the rival factions. Yet at
the last of this series of struggles—the Battle of Stoke, namely—
it is recorded that one Richard Brent of Melcomb, an esquire of
lands, was, for his bravery shown against the German mer-
cenaries, made knight on the field.

Whether the zeal then evinced for the House of Tudor
procured Court favour, or whether it was obtained through the
mediation of some noble patron, I know not; but at the Disso-
lution in the next reign, on the suppression of Halliford Priory,
a free grant of the lands of Worsley was made to Hugh, son of
the above-named Sir Richard Brent. By which grant, and
certain other accessions of property through marriage, the name







80 Melcomb Manor.

of Brent was enabled to bear itself bravely in the brave times
which followed; and during the reign of Elizabeth of glorious
memory, the Manor House being found too small and antiquated
for the importance of the family and the increased luxury of the
times, great part of it was demolished and rebuilt.

But after this long season of prosperity, there followed, in the
next age, a time of adversity. In the differences between King
Charles and his Parliament, the then representatives of the
family had the ill-fortune to engage with much zeal on his
Majesty’s party; Richard Brent, at that time lord of Melcomb,
aiding the King with money, and by his personal courage shown
in various actions. His two younger brothers were also men of
some note on the same side. Nathaniel, who was a divine, by
his eloquence, both in preaching and writing, ably advocated the
Royal cause; whilst the youngest brother, Major Gilbert Brent,
was accounted throughout the latter part of the war to be as
stout and diligent an officer as any in his Majesty’s service, and
was well respected even of the opposite party.

He passed unharmed through the war; but after the execu-
tion of his Majesty, being in South Wales at the time Colonel
Laugharne and his friends declared forthe King, he became one
of the leaders in that enterprise; and being afterwards, with
certain other officers and gentlemen, taken at the capture of
Pembroke, he, with the other chief men engaged in that unhappy
business, received sentence of death. Nevertheless, the Parlia-
ment having resolved that one only should suffer, a paper for
each man was placed in a steel cap; one paper being blank, and
on each of the others these words written—“ Life given by God.”
Major Brent being third in the order of drawing, by ill-hap took
the blank paper, and was forthwith led out and shot, receiving
his death like a stout soldier and valiant gentleman.

To the head of the family the close of these troubles was
also highly disastrous; for at that time Mr. Richard Brent was
threatened with confiscation, and to avoid utter ruin, he made
friends with some of the prevailing party; he was thus enabled,
by the sale of part of his estates and by fines raised on others,
to save his house and some wreck of his fortune.




[uterlogue L1. 81

From that time the Brents of Melcomb have been in no
position to assume much importance in the country, and Melcomb
itself has borne witness to the departed glory of its possessors.
The park has long since been done away, and converted into
arable and pasture land; and as the diminished household has
needed less space, some parts of the house have been allowed to
become ruinous.

Such is a brief sketch of our family history till the period of
my next narrative, the incidents of which may be supposed to
occur about the accession of the House of Hanover.








JEST AND EARNEST.



I.—TWO HOUSES.

~YOME fifty, or nearly fifty, years ago, there were plenty
of young people, and merry times enough, in our Mel-
comb neighbourhood. In this old Manor House, now
so silent, there were four young men and maidens, all full of life
and merriment; and again, in its close vicinity, at Worsley
Grange, you might have seen a still larger number, all in the
happy spring-tide of life, and with the fullest capacity for enjoy-
ment. The members of the two families were in those days on
the most intimate terms, and spent much time together; whilst
schemes of pleasure, such as were best suited to the season, were
matters of almost daily arrangement between them.

As the crow flies, Worsley Grange is little more than a mile
from Melcomb. By following a footpath through Melcomb
Wood, and then crossing a little plain of high open land, you
come upon other belts of woodland which fringe the farther brow
of the hill, and give beauty to the slopes immediately overhang-
ing Worsley; and straight down these green fields the footway
leads on to the Grange. It is little used now, but it was a well-
worn path in those days. As you crossed the high ground by
this track, you might have seen, a little to the left, an insulated
eminence, crowned by a tall clump of trees, and showing traces




Two Houses. 33

of ancient embankments. This was Norbury Mounds; and I make
mention of it in this place, because it is likely that I shall have to
refer to it more than once in the course of the coming narrative.

Worsley Grange lay at the bottom of the hill, in a pretty
sheltered valley ; but as a building it had little claim to beauty
or antiquity. I say “had,” for years ago it was pulled down,
and not a trace of it now remains. The house was modern, and
so were its occupants, the Heatherbys. They had nothing of
the ancient standing of Melcomb and our own family. The
estate of Worsley, as I have elsewhere mentioned, was formerly
Abbey property, and my own ancestors had obtained a grant of
it at the time of the Dissolution. But the troubles incident to
the Great Rebellion caused its loss ; the Brent of that time being
glad to sell it at a third of its value to an influential member of
the winning party, that he might thus secure his remaining pro-
perty, with the confiscation of which he was threatened.

The purchaser was one Obadiah Heatherby, a person of
unknown origin, who, like many others, rose to wealth and
importance in those troubled times on the ruin of better men
than himself. By this worthy, a house far more than propor-
tioned to the size of his estate had been built, and every possible
effort made to establish himself on an equal footing with the
older gentlemen, his neighbours.

But so far as he was personally concerned, these attempts on
the part of Mr. Obadiah Heatherby turned out to be complete
failures. The surrounding squires—Royalists to a man—acted
as though ignorant of his very existence; and his life was said
to have been shortened by the chagrin which their contempt
occasioned him.

Even to the next, if not to the third generation, the sins of
the Puritan father were visited upon the children, but as time
passed on, the old antipathy wore out, and by the period of which
I am speaking it had been clean forgotten. The heads of the
two families of Brent and Heatherby were at that time upon the
most neighbourly of terms; whilst, as I have already said, the
young people of the two houses could scarcely, under any cir-
cumstances, have been more intimate.






84 Fest and Earnest.



The Mr. Henry Brent who was in those days owner of
Melcomb had, for several years, been a widower ; and although
death had deprived him of more than one of his children, he had
still two sons and two daughters surviving. Some may, perhaps,
object that I am not a fitting person to give any sketch of the
character of Richard, the eldest of the Brent family ; but to these
I answer that I have undertaken to tell this story, to the right
understanding of which some description of that young man will
be necessary, and that I shall do my best to speak of him as
impartially as any indifferent person might do.

Richard Brent then, had, by the time at which I shall have
to introduce him to the reader, reached his six-and-twentieth
year; and being heir to an estate—reduced indeed, but still
sufficient—had not been bred to any profession. Most part of
his time was spent at Melcomb, where he made his home. He
was of a grave and thoughtful turn of mind, and occupied him-
self more among books, and less with the sports of the field, than
was common among young men of his condition; still he was a
man of too well balanced a mind to allow his love of study to
convert him into a bookworm or misanthropic recluse.

Of a totally opposite character was the younger brother
Charles, who, as a boy, had been looked upon as destined to do
great things in the world ; but his parts being rather brilliant than
solid, he had as yet done nothing as a man to make good his
early promise. Gay, witty, and volatile, with a restless disposi-
tion and no power of steady application, he had hitherto failed
in making any true start in life. He had at first been entered at
Oxford, with a view to the Church; but fearing that a clerical life
would be but little to his taste, he had left the university for the
pursuit of commerce. But in London he found that the city
counting-house had few attractions, and that the pleasures of the
town had many; the result was that in less than two years he
returned home, having acquired a plentiful supply of debts, and
little or no knowledge of business, or of any useful kind, beyond
the fact that he should never make a merchant. His present
idea of future employment was the army, and meanwhile he was
well contented to lead a life of ease and pleasure at Melcomb.


Momus. 85



Yet, great as had been the disappointment he had caused,
Charles Brent could not be said to have lost his father’s affection.
His good humour and the easy gaiety of his disposition made
him to be beloved as well at home as among all circles in which
he mixed; and even the victims of the jokes in which he too
constantly indulged found it a hard matter not to forgive him.
Of the merry party of young people of which he now formed the
life and soul, there was scarcely one who, sooner or later, did not
suffer from some of his wild pranks; yet all loved him, and were
deeply grieved when in after times his unstable character involved
him in a downward career, from which it were better that the
veil should not be withdrawn.

At the time of which I speak Charles was little more than
twenty years of age, and still younger were the two sisters, Alice
and Clarissa. Of these two young ladies I shall need to say
but little. They do not take a prominent place in the present
story, and there are circumstances in the life of the one last named
to which I shall find it necessary hereafter to devote a separate
chronicle.

In the family at Worsley Grange there were also two sons,
both of ages intermediate between those of the two Brents, and
after them had followed four daughters in rapid succession.
None of these young ladies were as yet married, although in the
graces of person and mind all of them might be said to possess
something more than an average share. Such, then, were the
two families of Heatherby and Brent.

II.—MOMUS.

srROM what has been premised of the intimacy which existed
Xe between a number of young people of such ages as theirs,
the reader cannot be ‘surprised if something more than friend-
ships should have developed themselves. Indeed, under the cir-
cumstances, it would rather have been surprising if nothing of
the nature of a love affair had come about; yet a casual observer








86 Fest and Earnest.

would have said that it was between those two young people of
whom it would least have been expected that such a thing actu-
ally occurred. It was, namely, between the grave, studious
Richard Brent, and Julia, the third of the Heatherby sisters.

There was, I say, some sort of inconsistency in this attach-
ment, for Richard Brent was fully nine years the lady’s senior,
and it was, moreover, little to be supposed that one of his gravity
of disposition would be captivated by the pretty, piquant little
maiden of seventeen; yet such was the fact. True, there was
as yet no declared attachment, and the two had perhaps scarcely
acknowledged its existence even to themselves; but there was
an obvious liking, a fondness on the part of each for the society
of the other, which, if not love, was so nearly akin to it, as only to
need time and circumstance to develop it into that passion, as
the slumbering fire may need air to fan it into flame.

Certain it is that the friendship which existed between them-—
for by that name it must as yet be called—was sufficient to cause
some sly jesting on the part of the brothers and sisters of both,
although it was not as yet emphatic enough to have originated
any rumour, as such connections are generally only too swift to
do, among neighbours and acquaintances. Certain also it is, that
it was rather owing to Julia’s influence than to any inherent love
of gaiety, that about this time Richard Brent was less constant at
his studies than formerly, and was more frequently to be found
taking part in the diversions of the other young people; it is also
noticeable that at this period he found it desirable to be often
taking walks or rides to Worsley, for which no less frivolous
pretexts could be found than that it was necessary for him to
carry some book or present to Julia Heatherby.

One of his presents must have especial notice. It was a small
rough dog, whose odd looks and evident intelligence induced him
to purchase it as an offering to his little mistress. Julia was
from home on a visit at the time, and before her return Richard
Brent had kept the animal long enough for it to have become
thoroughly attached to himself, not to mention that space was
also given for the completion of its education in the dozen absurd
tricks which he taught it.


Momus. 87



In due time Julia had returned to Worsley, and the presenta-
tion had been made; but after the little beast had fairly acknow-
ledged her as its lawful sovereign and mistress, it still reserved
a right of some sort of fealty to Richard, and, in default of his
appearance during two or three successive days at the Grange,
made a practice of taking a walk, purely on its own account,
across the hill. Arrived at Melcomb, Momus sought out his
friend, and after wagging its tail for what it adjudged to be the
correct length of time, returned in an orderly manner to Worsley.

If, instead of telling a tale of mere human joys and sorrows,
I were bent on writing—what were perhaps a not less worthy task
—a volume of anecdotes of dogs, | might be tempted to relate
how, when Momus failed in finding the object of his attentions
at the Manor House, he was accustomed, one by one, to visit all
Richard’s usual haunts in its vicinity, and other matters which
would go far to prove that the creature possessed far higher
mental powers than the blind impulses which we call instinct ;
but such digressions would be foreign to my story, to which I
must now return.

The regularity with which Momus paid his visits had once
induced Richard to make him the bearer of a sportive billet to
Julia, which she had answered by the same messenger in the
same mood; and as these missives had been safely carried to
their respective destinations, various letters had afterwards been
exchanged in the same manner. The reader must not mis-
understand the nature of this correspondence. These letters were
of the most trivial and innocent nature possible, and are not in
any way to be set down as clandestine love-letters ; for, as I have
said, no word of love had as yet been spoken between the two.

Such was the state of affairs when, one bright summer morn-
ing, little Julia was in the garden of Worsley Grange amusing
herself with the gambols of her little favourite. Presently it
occurred to her that she had last night finished the eighth volume
of the romance which Mr. Richard Brent-was then lending to her,
and that she was dying to make the acquaintance of the ninth
and last, and to know whether the hero and heroine were actually
married and lived happy ever afterwards.








88 Fest and Earnest.



_ She at once ran into the house and wrote a hasty note to her
friend and book-purveyor, begging him to send the wished-for
literature ; then, returning to the garden, she with some difficulty
induced Momus to let go the ball which, as a make-believe rat,
he was zealously worrying, and fastened the letter round his
neck ; after which she opened the garden gate, and bade him
trot away as fast as he could to Melcomb.

At a pace which showed that he had an exalted idea of the
importance of his mission, Momus took his way up Worsley
Banks and down through Melcomb Wood, never once allowing
himself to be allured into chasing the rabbits which scampered
across his path, or in any other way proving negligent of his
trust. If Miss Julia Heatherby’s letter was not duly delivered,
and if she had not the satisfaction of receiving on that very day
a full confirmation of her conjectures as to the future bliss of the
imaginary lovers in whom she was interested, I wish to have it
distinctly understood that it was not Momus who was in fault.

The accident which intervened was one quite unforeseen, and
scarcely to have been avoided by the messenger. This unlucky
accident was none other than the graceless Charles, who hap-
pened at the time to be strolling in the fields between the
Manor House and the wood, which were still called, by courtesy,
“The Park,” though they had long since ceased to be so in fact.
Charles was not a man gifted with any especial fondness for
dogs—of which deficiency Momus was well aware—and would
have passed him with the slightest “good morning,” in the shape
of a wag, of which his bushy tail was susceptible ; nor would
Charles have taken much notice of the comical little animal, had
not the letter round his neck attracted attention. But this blue-
tied packet was a phenomenon into which he thought it desirable
to inquire; and having coaxed Momus to him, he proceeded to
examine It.

The vulture has not a keener scent for carrion than had
Charles Brent for anything that might be made food for laughter.
Here was a letter from Julia Heatherby to his brother, and an
opportunity for mischief and mystification which must by no
means be neglected.










ENT STAONALL

PLAY-FELLOWS.

Nay. do not whine, play-fellow mine, nor bound and gambol free,
But lightly go toafriend we know, and bear him this from me,
Play-fellows true are | and you, together we sport to-day,
But my sport may yet be earnest, pet,while yours will be always play !



A MISSIVE IN JEST.








GRC oy

a




Momus. QI



Taking Momus beneath his arm, he carried him to his own
room, and there set himself to fabricate a letter in the place of
Julia’s poor little billet. To him this was not a difficult task ; for
among Charles Brent’s worthless accomplishments, a remarkable,
though I cannot say a fortunate, facility in imitating handwriting
was prominent. The letter which he penned was addressed in a
formal and ceremonious manner, and set forth that Miss Julia
Heatherby had attempted to read the volume sent to her by
Mr. Richard Brent, but had been astonished to find the matter
it contained to be such as no gentlewoman could think of perus-
ing. As she well knew the methodical habits of the sender, she
could not suppose that this matter could be referred to the score
of carelessness or accident, and therefore must decline any future
loans of books at his hands. If he had any satisfactory explana-
tion to offer, she begged him to do so; but otherwise, she desired
him to understand that their friendship must now be considered
as at an end.

This precious composition was tied up in the same manner
as the genuine epistle; and as Charles fastened it to the neck of
Momus, he was not a little tickled at the idea of the bewilder-
ment his brother would feel when he opened and read it.

Richard Brent was not of a suspicious temperament. He
perused and re-perused the letter, and was perplexed to a greater
degree than had ever entered into his brother's hopes; but
notwithstanding the preposterous nature of its contents, the idea
that it was a hoax never entered his mind. On the contrary, he
busied himself to explain the assumed incongruity. Such a thing
was possible as that, by mistake, a book might have been sent
which, to Miss Heatherby’s nice judgment, might seem objection-
able, although it was hard to see how such an error could have
happened; and this he admitted in the answer which he wrote,
at the same time announcing his intention of visiting the Grange
that very evening, at the hour of seven, and then fully unriddling
the whole enigma.

Alas! this answer was never destined to reach Julia
Heatherby. It was committed to Momus; but five minutes after
it had been indited, it was intercepted and read with infinite




92 Fest and Earnest.





relish by that scapegrace Charles, who gloried beyond measure
to find how completely his brother had been taken in.

Again his skill in caligraphy was put to the test; and this
time, owing to his greater familiarity with the writing to be
imitated, he produced a still greater triumph of deception than
the former. This letter ran as follows :—

“Dear Miss Jutta,—Your commands with respect to the
volume required find me much engaged upon important business,
or I should at once have ridden to Worsley to‘place it in your
hands ; and, more especially, as there are matters of far deeper
interest than books—at least to me—of which I am desirous to
speak with you. As these matters are of a nature to demand a
private and uninterrupted interview, will you allow me to ask
you, so far, to grant me a special favour, as to meet me at seven
o'clock this evening beneath the trees on Norbury Mounds? I
desire no answer to these hasty lines; but, under any circum-
stances, shall await your coming with impatience at the place and
time mentioned.—Your humble servant and admirer, R. B”

“ There,” said Charles complacently to himself, as he added
the initials, “if I am any judge of the extent of the silly girl’s
folly, this will bring her; and then, unless I am mistaken, there
will be a little more sport for me.” So saying, he affixed his
forgery to the neck of the unconscious Momus, and at last
allowed him to return in peace to Worsley Grange.

III.—ANTIQUARIAN MATTERS,

ree next proceeding of Mr. Charles Brent was, if in some
respects less objectionable than the last, still less dignified.
He dived into the remote back regions of the house, and there,
through the good offices of a kitchen-maid, with whom he was on
terms approaching to familiarity, obtained an earthen pipkin, of
the brown material which is, I believe, commonly known among
housewives as Nottingham-ware.

His first act, with regard to his newly-acquired property, was






Antiquarian Matters. 93



to take a convenient stone, and ruthlessly break it in pieces; he
then produced several halfpennies, and these, with the same in-
strument, he so hammered and battered as wholly to obliterate
every trace of the legends and devices which they had borne.
This done, he placed them in vinegar, and shortly had the satis-
faction of seeing them assume that delicate green tinge so highly
prized by the collector of antiquities. The motive for these
acts may, perhaps, seem somewhat obscure to the reader, but
suffice it to say that they were undertaken in the interests of
science.

Putting the battered halfpennies and fragments of pipkin in
his pockets, he now took his way to Norbury Mounds, a spot to
which some allusion has already been made. On the summit of
a considerable natural elevation, a lofty artificial bank of earth,
surrounded by a deep ditch and rampart of the same material,
had at some remote age been thrown up; and the whole was
now overshadowed by a noble growth of forest trees. These
remains of antiquity, though within a short distance of Melcomb
Wood, were situated upon the Worsley estate, and were, indeed,
much nearer to the Grange than to the Manor House.

In one of the embankments a portion of earth had been dis-
placed on the previous day by Charles and his friends, the young
Heatherbys, in digging out a badger; and in this loose soil he
deposited, and carefully covered over, the bulk of his ceramic
and numismatic treasures, reserving one specimen only of each.
These last he plentifully plastered with the yellow earth of the
mound, and having wrapped them in paper, strolled down towards
Melcomb Rectory.

The rector of Melcomb at that time was the Rev. Mr.
Septimus Howker, a bachelor of rather more than middle age,
and a man who affected, if he did not possess, no small amount
of learning in antiquarian matters. He was, I say, a bachelor;
but it was rather his misfortune than his fault that he was still
unmarried. He was.not averse to the society of ladies; far from
it; but there was in his tall, stooping, and ungainly figure, and
slovenly exterior, coupled with a happy knack of absence of mind,
and a faculty for never saying the right thing at the proper time,






94 Fest and Earnest.



a something so uncouth and provocative of laughter, as con-
stantly to have caused the miscarriage of his matrimonial
attempts. He had many amiable qualities, as everyone admitted,
and no doubt many ladies might have been found in the neigh-
bourhood who would gladly have shared with him the proceeds
of the rich livings of Melcomb and Worsley; but, like an ill-
trained hawk, he had ever been prone to fly at such game as was
beyond his reach, and had thus secured to himself a series of
disappointments, much to the amusement of his neighbours and
his own discomfiture. But he had comfort under his sorrows, and
after each successive fall he returned with fresh ardour to his
antiquarian researches.

The little-appreciated attentions of this divine had recently
been directed towards our bright, fair-haired little friend, Julia
Heatherby ; by whom, it will not be too much to say, he was
utterly detested—a fact of which, as the reader may infer from
the little that has been said of his character, he was probably
the last person to note the existence. Charles Brent, however,
who was quick enough in observing anything which could be
made conducive to raising a laugh, saw exactly to what extent
his friend Julia and the parson affected each other, and looked
upon them as proper subjects for his mischief-making operations.

The abode of this learned gentleman partook largely of the
oddity of its owner. It was an unarranged museum—a perfect
lumber-room of objects of antiquity, or things which had been
foisted upon him as such. For in making his collections, it must
be admitted that he had, like many other collectors, often allowed
his enthusiasm to outrun his judgment, and the bumpkins of his
own and the neighbouring parishes had sold him much old metal
and leather which had far less respectable claims to antiquity
than their own Sunday suits; moreover, if the truth must be
spoken, our friend Charles had on various occasions swelled the
collection with riches of a highly apocryphal character.

The savant was in his study, engaged on a paper to be read
before a society of his brother antiquarians—“ On the best method
of restoring Stonehenge, and the propriety of protecting that
invaluable monument from the destructive effects of the weather






Antiquarian Matters. 95



by a slated roof”—a performance which was afterwards ad-
mitted to show much ingenuity and imaginative power.

Charles Brent apologised for interrupting his literary labours ;
he should not, he said, have ventured to distract his attention
from a work of so much moment to the scientific world, had it
‘not been that he had something of importance to communicate ;
but discoveries had been made at Norbury Mounds which, he
was sure, would be of interest to him.

Had the atéollens aurem of the Rev. Mr. Howker been more
largely developed, he would have pricked up his ears; as it was,
he did so by a figure of speech merely. “ My dear young friend,”
he said, rising from his seat, “I feel an especial interest, | may
say a most peculiar interest, in all that concerns Norbury Mounds.
My own theory of the origin of the earthworks and the deriva-
tion of the name is the one which must, eventually, override all
others. As to my friend Billon’s improbable conjectures

“As you are well aware,” broke in Charles, who saw with
dismay that the whole story, which he knew by heart, was com-
ing—“as you are well aware, I have long been a convert to
your own more plausible view. But the discovery of which I
speak may be one which will either confirm or refute it, On
removing a portion of one of the mounds in the pursuit of a
badger, we have met with what appear to be the remains of a
rudely constructed urn, once probably a receptacle for coins.
I have taken care that the deposit should be disturbed as little
as possible, as I well know that the precious fragments will be
less exposed to injury if removed from their resting-place by the
practised hand of an antiquary.”

“ Most true, most true,” said the savant ; “irreparable damage
has many times been done by the ignorant and careless, and
nothing can be more desirable than to consider an object 27 sz¢z.
But let us see what you have brought.”

“A fragment of the urn, and a solitary coin,” said Charles,
producing his potsherd and battered. halfpenny. They were
closely scrutinised by the antiquary.

A smile of intense satisfaction beamed over his lean features.
“Yes,” he said at length, “these priceless relics do indeed












96 Fest and Earnest.





wonderfully bear out my theory. Formerly it was said that
these mounds were Roman—every earthwork was called Roman
by our ignorant predecessors. ‘That the mounds were not Roman,
this pottery and coin bear witness, for they are not Roman.
Then the ingenious Mr. Billon came down and broached his
theory, that Norbury was a contraction of Normanbury, and
showed the mounds to be the remains of a Norman castle.
There was not a tittle of real evidence in his favour, high as his
name stands; and the tradition that a Normandy pippin was
found growing in a hedge near the spot, of which he makes so
much, can have no weight except with the vulgar.”

“ None,” said Charles, gravely.

“ None whatever; and now this coin will enable me trium-
phantly to refute him. If I mistake not, this ancient piece is
copper. Now in Norman days we had no copper money in
England, nor, indeed, till those of the second Charles. Conse-
quently, it cannot be Norman.”

“ A better negative proof need not be wished,” said Charles,
with a slow, approving movement of the head.

“No,” continued the antiquary, warming with his subject;
“nor a better positive one on my own side. I have long been
convinced that Norbury Mounds were thrown up as the tomb
and monument of some Norse king or chieftain, probably some
leader of the Norwegian mercenaries employed by Ethelred
against their natural enemies, the Danes. Nor-bury, the Norse-
man’s burying-place—the name alone is enough to carry convic-
tion; yet if more proof is wanted, here we have it (pointing to
the peculiar indented ornament, common to the ware of which
the fragment was formed). Here is a small, though a very small,
portion of an inscription. It is not in Latin, it is not in
Norman-French, it is not in Anglo-Saxon; consequently, it must
be in Runic, and of Norwegian origin, though I regret that I am
not able to read that character with fluency. By much the same
line of reasoning we might establish an identical origin for the
coin. They are both conclusive evidence of the soundness of
my theory. My dear young friend, your visit has indeed given
me a triumph and a pleasure.”


The Rendezvous. 97



“ Nothing could have delighted me more than to have done
so,’ said Charles—-as was indeed the fact—‘“ but further dis-
coveries will repay our search. When shall I have the gratifica-
tion of examining the mounds with you, and pointing out the
exact site of the deposit ?”

“ At once, at once,” replied the antiquary, again rising; “in
so important a matter it is desirable that no time should be lost.”

“ Unfortunately,” returned Charles, “I shall have pressing
business which will occupy me for several hours; but if you could
be at the mounds this evening, say at seven, I would then under-
take to show you something worth the seeing.”

“fit cannot be earlier, I must be contented with the time you
propose,” said the enthusiastic Howker, sitting down with a sigh
of disappointment; and with that he returned to his archeological
treatise; whilst the traitor Charles, with much satisfaction, took
his way to the Manor House.



IV.—-THE RENDEZVOUS.

“‘YULIA HEATHERBY was not a little astonished when she re-
‘J ceived the letter which the reader has already had the pleasure
of reading, though I will not undertake to say that she was alto-
gether displeased with it. Considering the footing upon which
Richard Brent stood with regard to herself, it seemed to her that
this note, making, as it did, an assignation, was somewhat pre-
sumptuous. Had she been a little more experienced, and a little
less kind-hearted, she might perhaps have treated this request as
an impertinence, and left it unnoticed. But little Julia was very
young, and she would not willingly have hurt the feelings of any
one, least of all those of Mr. Richard Brent, for whom she
admitted a very decided liking. Moreover—for why should the
truth be concealed—she was not, perhaps, without some curiosity
to hear what the subject might be on which he desired to speak
with her; of its nature she could only form one plausible con-
jecture, and if she were right, it would not be a theme wholly




98 Fest and Earnest.

displeasing to her. In short, when evening came, Miss Julia
Heatherby, with no other attendant than the faithful Momus,
might have been seen tripping up Worsley Bank, and entering
the shady grove which overshadowed the slopes of Norbury
Mounds.

The idea that Richard would not be there and waiting for her
was one which had never occurred to her mind; she was not a
little surprised, therefore, to find that no human being save her-
self was near the mounds. In no very good humour, either
with him or with herself, she wandered round the spot for some
time. At last an approaching figure was indistinctly seen
through the trees. It was evidently making for the entrench-
ments; it drew near, and then, to her utter discomfiture, she
discovered that it was not Richard Brent, but the Rev. Septimus
Howker.

Julia’s heart sank within her. She would gladly have taken
to her legs, and ran away like a very Daphne, had not good
manners forbidden it. Yet her greeting to him was the coldest
she could assume; she had, she said, already extended her walk
too far, and must at once hasten homewards. .

Simple Julia! If she supposed that her reverend admirer
could by anything she might do or say be brought to see that
his society was not desired, she was altogether mistaken. Per-
ceptive powers for such purposes were altogether absent from
his composition ; and he clung faster than a leech. At the sight —
of this young lady his antiquarian ardour had entirely given
place to feelings of gallantry. This was an opportunity for
winning Miss Julia’s good graces which was not to be neglected.
Here they were among those very remains of antiquity upon
which he, and he alone, was the great authority ; and now was the
time to fill her with admiration for his learning and powers of
mind.

Deluded being! By standing on his head, or by turning somer-
saults, he would have had an equally good chance of winning her
favour, had he but possessed the grace to know it. Fortunately,
or unfortunately, he had not; and so dilated on his pet theory
of the origin of the mounds, demolishing his opponents, and


The Rendezvous. 99

enunciating his own views, with an earnestness which would have
provoked her laughter, if vexation would but have allowed her
to laugh. And yet without absolute rudeness, of which she was
incapable, she could not free herself; escape came eventually,
but scarcely in a form she could have desired.

With his whimsical brain still bent on plotting mischief,
Charles Brent had been leisurely walking down towards the
Grange at the moment when Julia was climbing the hill.
He had expected to see her moving in that direction; he saw
her, and was gratified ; and with a heart glowing with satisfaction,
pursued his way to Worsley.

Julia’s sisters, with a young lady visitor, were walking on the
bowling-green ; Charles joined them, and was soon busy ina
lively conversation, in the course of which he managed to throw
out insinuations that Miss Julia was carrying on a more serious
flirtation with the Rev. Mr. Howker than was admitted. This
was questioned by the elder Miss Heatherbys—who, by-the-bye,
had not been remiss in sarcasms on the subject in poor Julia’s
presence ; but who, now she was not present to be made suffer,
professed, and probably felt, the most disdainful incredulity.
‘Thereupon Charles defended his position by asserting his con-
viction that she was at that very moment keeping an assignation
with the divine; and, on being challenged to do so, professed
himself ready to make good what he said by leading the whole
party to the place.

Accordingly, under his escort they set out for the mounds ;
and on approaching, Charles, in wicked triumph, had the satis-
faction of pointing out the two engaged apparently in an in-
teresting ¢é/e-d-téte, which that arch-deceiver at first declared he
would not have interrupted for the world, though on second
thoughts he admitted that he might perhaps find some little
gratification in the parson’s discomfiture.

Charles knew his man perfectly well, and knew that he was
not one whom it was difficult to render ridiculous. Purely
accidental as had been this meeting with the lady on the part of
Mr. Howker, so nervous and devoid of self-possession was that
gentleman, that he could not, under any circumstances, have








100 Fest and Earnest.



been more covered with confusion, or looked more guilty. Poor
little Julia, too, blushed like a damask rose. On the whole, the
rencounter with the supposed lovers was a scene which the
graceless Charles enjoyed from the very bottom of his heart.

Certainly, it demanded some little tact on the part of our
plotter to prevent the antiquary from divulging the engagement
which had been the real motive for his coming on that evening
to Norbury Mounds; but this, by skilful generalship, he suc-
ceeded in doing for several minutes. He then contrived that the
ladies should find it desirable to turn homewards; and with a
promise of overtaking them on the way, he remained behind for
the expressed purpose of speaking a few words on a business
matter with the Rev. Septimus Howker.

No sooner had his fair friends left the spot, than Charles
turned to the rector, and made profuse apologies for the late-
ness of his arrival. Nothing, he said, could have annoyed him
more than to have been detained by a bevy of frivolous girls
from the pursuit of science and the conversation of his learned
friend. He condoled with Mr. Howker that he, too, should
have had the current of his speculations interrupted by having
been obliged to make conversation for that giddy and uninformed
young woman, Miss Julia Heatherby. All which to Howker
—who was groaning under the interruption of his conversation
with that young lady, to whom he had intended to have said
much more had time permitted—was anything but soothing.

It was in vain that Charles led him to his treasure-trove;
Julia’s face had thrown all antiquarian interests quite into the
background ; and his tormentor had the pleasure of seeing that
ever and anon he turned from his digging to cast furtive glances
towards the direction in which his fair one was fast receding.
He had hardly a word to say on the Scandinavian theory, and
even the acquisition of a whole pocketful of broken pipkin and
bad halfpennies did not seem to console him. Charles Brent,
when he wished him good night, felt that he had succeeded in
making him as miserable as heart could wish.




——

A False Scent. 101

V.-—-A FALSE SCENT.




eee same evening, in pursuance of the engagement made in
‘> his undelivered letter, Richard Brent mounted his horse
and rode over to Worsley Grange. The note which he had, as
he believed, received from Julia, had caused him some perplexity,
yet little real annoyance; for he did not doubt but that some
simple blunder had occurred, and that with five minutes for
explanation everything could be put right again, and any feeling
of pique she might have conceived towards him removed.

But when he reached the Grange, and found that Julia was
not there, his annoyance was great. It seemed to him that,
after the intimation of his coming which he had given, her absence
could scarcely be otherwise than intentional, and an act of hos-
tility towards him identical in spirit with the offensive contents
of her letter.

Obviously, she wished to quarrel with him-—to debar him
from any closer intimacy. Could it be that she had some other and
more favoured lover (the reader will observe that, in his jealous
thoughts, Richard Brent assumed to himself that he had some
claim to be considered in that light)—some lover who thought
their friendship too intimate, and who had bidden Julia shake
him off ?

Appearances favoured this solution; and if it were the true
one, who could this lover be? Surely not this pedantic, blun-
dering parson, who had been jestingly assigned to her; he was |
sure that his pretty, light-hearted, and yet wise and tender little

|



Julia, could never care for such a scarecrow. Yet girls took
strange fancies, and it might be so. Thus, upon the whole,
Richard Brent rode from the gates of Worsley in anything but
a happy or amiable frame of mind.

He was far on his way before Julia and her sisters returned
from Norbury Mounds; but had he even awaited their return, I
am quite sure that he would have waited in vain. So deeply had
Julia’s spirit been hurt by the various events of the evening, that
on entering the house she at once shut herself in her own room,



Rc




102 Fest and Earnest.



and there, I am grieved to say, she fairly cried with vexation and
anger.

mA charming little maiden was Julia, but she had a certain
little temper of her own. For her vexation, Heaven knows that
she had cause enough—the faithless Richard’s non-appearance—
the forced ¢éte-d-¢éte with the odious Howker—the discovery, on
which a false construction was so obviously placed—and the jeers
of her relatives, of which she should never hear the last—all these
were enough to vex the poor child. But she was angry too,
which would have been all very well had her anger been rightly
directed, but it was not; instead of being levelled at Charles
Brent, it was centered upon his unoffending brother Richard.
Richard Brent it was, as she thought, who had lured her into this
reprehensible and unhappy expedition. He it was who had dis-
honourably failed in an engagement of his own making. He it
was who had placed her in a position which would expose her to
the jests of her brothers and sisters—perhaps to those of the
neighbourhood. But she would never forgive him, however
penitent he might be—never, never, never.

When Richard Brent left Worsley, he was not without some
vindictive feeling towards Julia; but by the next morning every
trace of that feeling had disappeared from his mind, and he was
only desirous of making his peace with her. I think I may say
that he was a just man, and that he even possessed some touch
of generosity. He considered that there might have been reasons,
unknown to him, by which her conduct was capable of justifica-
tion; or it might have been only a little maidenish freak, for
which no true man ought to bear malice; added to which, he
now acknowledged to himself that he loved her, and should be
miserable without her.

Thus he thought, and determined not only to get the matter
of the letter fully explained, but at the same time to make a full
declaration of the state of his own heart, and, if possible, to place
matters between himself and Julia on a clearer footing for the
future ; and to that end he took his horse and again cantered
along the lanes to Worsley.

After learning thus much of what had passed in his mind, the


A False Scent. 103



reader may perhaps be able to judge what were the state of his
feelings when he was told that Miss Julia Heatherby kept her
room, and declined to see him. “Was she ill?” he asked.
“No.” “Did she give any reason for refusing to receive him ?”
“None.” He sat down and wrote a brief note, in which he ex-
pressed his concern lest any act of his might have given her
offence, and begged that she would allow him to make explana-
tions in person. This note was answered by another, in which
she curtly declined the honour of an interview, and nothing
more.

In no very enviable mood Richard Brent mounted and slowly
walked his horse towards Melcomb ; but it was not for long that
he was permitted to indulge in his own thoughts. He had scarcely
passed the first turn, when he heard the sharp clatter of hoofs
behind him, and in another moment a well-known neighbour,
Squire Dorrel of Ashdown, came up.

“ Ah! been to Worsley, I see,” he began; “should have called
there myself, but time presses. All our friends at the Grange
well? That’s right. So one of the young ladies there is to be
married shortly, I hear; don’t wonder at it—surprised none of
them married before—nice girls—pretty girls—quite an orna-
ment to the county, quite.”

“Humph!” said Richard; “I had not heard that any Miss
Heatherby was engaged as yet.”

“Likely not,’ his companion went on; “news generally
reaches me sooner than most people. Like to hear it-—feel an
interest in my neighbours’ welfare—glad to see my friends marry
their daughters satisfactorily. Heatherby has a large family—
can’t expect all his girls to catch landed gentlemen; and little
Julia might do worse than have the parson.”

Richard winced, but he took care not to expose himself in
Dorrel’s eyes. “It is then Miss Julia,” he said, “who is to be
made a bride, and the bridegroom is-——”

“Ts Howker, Howker, of course ; you might have guessed that
much. Has his oddities—not remarkable for good looks—will
be double her age for years to come. But all women are fond
of the cloth; and Howker is a worthy man—a learned man too,






104 Fest and Earnest.

they say—and has a good living. As I said before, little Julia
might do worse.”

All this did not drop precisely like oil and wine into his
wounds; but Richard Brent was not the man to make a display
of any emotion it might cost him. He simply expressed his
surprise that one so intimate as himself with the Heatherby
family should not have heard the news, if it were reliable, more
early; and then inquired whether the authority from which Mr.
Dorrel had drawn his information were one to be depended upon.

“Pooh! pooh!” said his companion; “you bookish men can
never see what goes on under your own noses. Why, this has
been talked of for weeks past. Howker’s always at the Grange ;
and, besides, the—ahem !—young people so arrange their walks
as to be constantly meeting on the hill yonder. One of my girls
was at the Grange yesterday, and she, with some of the others,
happened unexpectedly to come upon the two in their billing and
cooing. It was capital fun, she said ; for they were in the prettiest
confusion imaginable. She—Kate—is certain that the match
will come off. But here we are at the finger-post, and you are
turning for Melcomb, eh? No; no time to look in this morning.
You have not been at Ashdown this month past, and my wife
and the girls will be glad to see you.”

“T fear,” said Richard, “that I shall not be able to pay my
respects to Mrs. Dorrel for some time to come. To-morrow |
shall be leaving Melcomb for London.”

“Well, then, let it be as soon as you return, Good-bye.”
And Mr. Dorrel trotted briskly down the road.

The necessity for this sudden visit to London was a new dis-
covery on the part of Richard Brent, and I incline to think that
Mr. Dorrel’s intelligence must have had something to do with
originating it. In any case, it was promptly acted upon; and
before twenty-four hours were past, he was upon his way to the
great metropolis.



as










Forsaken. 105

VI.—FORSAKEN,

ee eternal and unrelenting hatred vowed by poor little Julia
‘> must have rankled in her bosom for nearly a whole day,
but towards evening she began to suspect that she would have
acted more justly had she allowed him to speak for himself. On
the following day she felt assured that he would have been able
to palliate his offences if she had only permitted him. On the
third she felt quite certain that it was not in Richard’s nature to
have done wrong intentionally, and that there must have been a
mistake somewhere. In short, by this time she would have given
anything for a reconciliation.

On that afternoon it had long been arranged that a sort of
small /éte-champétre should be held on the wooded banks between
Worsley and Melcomb, at which the young people of both
families were to be present. Julia looked forward with hope to
this gathering. Richard would of course be there, and then all
would be made smooth again; but in this she was disappointed,
though Alice and Clarissa Brent duly made their appearance,
and with them their brother Charles.

From them it was that Julia first heard of Richard’s departure,
and her vexation at the news did not escape his brother’s obser-
vation, who, with a mind bent on still teasing the poor girl, set
himself to account for the expedition by a suitable motive. He
did so with eminent success, and his mysterious hints with refer-
ence to the lady (an old attachment of his elder brother's),
whose attractions might have something to do with this
sudden journey, and of the possibility of a speedy acquisition to
the Brent family, silly and transparent as they were, were daggers
to her.

So the little merry-making, which gave so much delight to
all else concerned in it, was worse than a blank to Julia. The
day was perfect for such a gathering, but she took no delight in
it. . There was but one thing that gave her any consolation, and
that was the absence of the Rev. Septimus Howker, whom
Charles had announced as on his way to join the party, there to








106 Fest and Earnest.



deliver an exhaustive lecture on the antiquities of Norbury
Mounds.

Of course he said this to tease Julia, or at least to raise a
titter at her expense. He had no spite against her, but some
object for his raillery was necessary to him, and she was the one
whom Fate had delivered into his hands. All the afternoon his
persecutions were continued; and even a little before the party
broke up, when all were seated on the grass, and he was asked
to sing, before he began he threw a wicked look at Julia, as much
as to inform her and the company that his lay should be suited
to her forlorn and forsaken condition. The song was as follows,
and I have reason to believe that it was of his own writing :—

“You meet my own with a kinder eye,

You speak in a tone more low,

Than when we went maying in days gone by
And you gave me a saucy ‘No’—

A ‘no,’ with a laugh at the saying,
And a toss of each glossy braid ;

But I am older since we went maying,
Since we went maying, proud maid.

“ And the river banks, that were so bright,

Are dry with the rustling reed ;

And the flowers, that were red, and yellow, and white
Are grey with the sober seed ;

And the lambs have ceased their playing,
And the birds sit dumb in the shade ;

And you were younger when we went maying,
When we went maying, proud maid.”

It was a foolish song, and had no especial bearing upon her
peculiar troubles; and yet, if her pride would have allowed it,
Julia could have burst into tears before it was finished. Poor
child! she was glad when the whole affair was over, and she
could cry to her heart’s content in the seclusion of her own room.

Unconscious as was Charles Brent of the mischief he was
doing, he had given poor Julia a deep and cruel wound. After
all she had gone through during the last three days, the foolish
nonsense that he had uttered about the object of his brother's




Forsaken. 107



journey to London had all the weight and bitterness of truth.
And why, indeed, should it not be true? She had driven her
lover away in such a manner as must have sorely grieved and
offended him. She had driven him from the neighbourhood
evidently in that state of desperation in which men marry women
for whom they care nothing. It was quite likely that he would
do such a desperate act as his brother had hinted at, and so be
lost to her for ever. .

With such thoughts as these she tormented herself all that
night. The next day she was wretchedly ill, Poor little Julia!
more troubles and annoyances had been crowded into the last
few days than she had known in the whole of her previous
uneventful life, and her delicate organisation gave way under
them. A few days later, and it was understood that she was
suffering from a nervous fever.

When Charles Brent learnt that Julia was actually ill, his
conscience suggested that his own folly must partly, if not
wholly, have been the cause. To do Charles justice, he was
miserable under this reflection, and did all that lay in his power
to make amends. He wrote to his brother, fully detailing the
tricks he had played, and asking his pardon. Nor did he
shrink from the yet more painful task of making his confessions
and apologies to Julia, with whom he sought an interview as
soon as she was able to see him.

On this occasion Charles said what he had to say with a
candour and a delicacy which did him honour; and yet I am
bound to admit that the culprit suffered far the less keenly of the
two. It was difficult for Julia, in going through this series of
mistakes and misconceptions, to avoid in some degree laying
open the state of her own feelings; and yet she shrank nervously
from the idea of in any way making a confidant of Charles Brent.

Yet Charles behaved well and tenderly, for he was much
touched by her pale cheeks and thin, white fingers, and felt that
he had acted like a heartless, good-for-nothing dog. He was
now as anxious to soothe as ever he had been to tease her, and
would have given much for the power to repair the mischief he
had caused.




108 Fest and Earnest.



There was one way in which he thought he might do some-
thing; and with all the caution and tact of which he was master,
he hinted that Julia’s mind might be more set at rest by his
brother's returning to Melcomb, which could be ensured by a
summons from himself. But in making this suggestion he went
too far. Julia’s delicacy was touched; the colour mounted sud-
denly into her wan cheeks; and she peremptorily forbade him
to take any such step.

VIL—A LOVE TEST.

ie Julia Heatherby, in her weak and shattered state, this
interview with Charles Brent proved over-exciting. It was
long that night before she could sink to sleep, and when she
did so, it was not into quiet repose, but into the restless slumber
of the somnambulist. For a little while she passed into forget-
fulness, which, as it seemed to her, lasted the whole night; it
was, as she thought, morning, and she awoke.

As she did so, Momus, her poor neglected Momus, came to
her bedside, carrying a letter which she knew well to be from
Richard Brent. She trembled as she opened it, for she feared it
was only to tell her that he renounced her for ever; and as she
read it, she wept plentifully, for it upbraided her with her injustice
towards him, and asked her by what right she could again look
for his love; “and yet,” so she thought it ran on, “and yet I will
prove whether in your capricious heart there is any true love for
me. This very morning | shall await you in Hilworth Church.
Come to me simple and alone, and the priest shall be ready to
unite us; but if, half-an-hour before noon, you are not there,
I shall have gone away, and for ever.”

To Julia, in her dream, it seemed that when she read this
letter, she had no feeling of pride nor of rebellion; she rather
accepted with thankfulness this trial of love. Quickly and
stealthily she rose up, and, dressing herself in white, as fitted the
errand on which she was bound, crept softly from her chamber,




A Love Test. 29 |



and down the stairs. All was silent—not a soul was stirring;
and, unheard, she unbarred a door, and stood in the open air.

She felt the damp night wind blow coldly upon her burning
temples, and, piercing through her thin, white garment, it made
her shiver, but it did not wake her; in her disturbed brain there
was at that moment no room but for a single idea—namely, that
for her everything depended on reaching Hilworth before the
appointed time.

The closed flowers were all sleeping quietly in their beds—
as she, poor child! should have been in hers—when she glided
through the little gate of the bowling-green, and out into the
open fields. The uplands, with their fringes of tall trees, were
shining beneath the low moon, as she walked rapidly upwards
by the footpath which led to the hill-top. Close beneath the
crown of the hill was an old stone-quarry—a rough, precipitous
chasm, showing some thirty feet of sheer descent. In her waking
moments, she would have shuddered and stood aghast to ap-
proach it; but now she walked steadily within a hand’s-breadth
of the brink, and had no thought of fear; and so passed on across
the bleak and windy down.

Beyond the open summit of the hill, a dark, lonely lane led
downwards; she passed through it, and out upon the meadows
by the river-side.

A heavy mist lay along the stream, and wrapped the adjacent
lowlands in its thick and chilly folds. The long grass of the
meadows was dank with dew, and drenched her feet and gar-
ments; yet she hardly felt it, and did not stop nor turn aside.

Presently the path approached nearer to the river, and skirted
the water’s edge; it was a deep, smooth stream there, above the
mill, fringed with sedges and tall spikes of crimson flowers.
Even in her sleep she was dimly conscious of the cool, quiet,
beautiful death, which lay lurking so near to her, that a false step
would have flung her helpless into its embrace—she was dimly
conscious of it, for the cries of the startled moor-hens sank faintly
into her sleep-bound ears, and she raised her eyes as the reflection
of the moon upon the surface struck them with an unwonted lustre ;
but it filled her with no terror—it did not awake her.




110 Fest and Earnest.



She passed the mill, where everything was hushed and quiet
now, save a faint plashing of water as it dripped lazily over the
idle wheel; beyond, the passage of the deeper stream was by a
single plank, from which, but the day before, the handrail had
been broken. Fora moment she seemed to be aware of the
danger, and paused; but soon, as though the pressing need of
hastening to her trysting place came suddenly upon her, she gave
a start, and, folding her arms, walked calmly over; after this, the
river was more shallow, and crossed by stepping-stones.

These she took unhesitatingly one by one, never failing in
her balance, and never slipping, slippery as they were with wet
and slimy mosses; yet she knew of some feeling of weariness
when she reached the opposite side, but it was overpowered by
the necessity for hurrying onwards; and without stopping, she
passed on by the highway leading up the bank to the village of
Hilworth, straight before her.

The windows of the village street shone brightly as she went
by them, but not with warm light from within; all their inmates
were hushed and buried in sleep, and their brilliance was but
the cold reflection of the moonlight.

White and ghastly the walls of the old church glimmered
down upon her as she entered the graveyard. She hastened to
the porch, but the doors were closed. She alone of the living
was within the sacred enclosure, and, overcome by weariness, she
leaned her arms upon a gravestone, and stood for a moment to
rest. As she did so, a deep, measured sound smote upon her
ear. It was the church clock. She heard it, noted it, counted
every stroke. A great tremor seized her as the eleventh blow
fell, Could it be that the hour was past? would it strike again ?
Again the stroke descended, and in her agony, with a cry of
“Too late!” Julia awoke.

Awoke to become conscious that it was a dream, but not alla
dream—to know that she, cold and wet with the winds and dews,
was standing there alone in the midnight churchyard ; and as all
this came upon her, with a shriek of terror she sank fainting to
the ground.




Shadows of the Night. III



VIII.—SHADOWS OF THE NIGHT.

aes BRENT’S suggestion, that he should write for the
AW’ purpose of recalling his brother to Melcomb, was wholly
unneeded ; the letter which we have already seen him write was
quite sufficient for the purpose. Change of scene had not
produced the results which Richard Brent had hoped for. In
London he had determined to entirely shake off his weakness for
that wayward little flirt, Julia Heatherby. But this he found to
be altogether out of the question. That quaint, pretty, provoking
little face would be always before him. Even whilst he still had
reason to believe she had been unjust, if not actually false to him,
the desire to see her again had grown so strong, that he had
meditated putting an end to his voluntary banishment. But on
receiving his brother’s letter he determined to return at once.

Slight as had been the mention made by Charles of Julia’s
declining health, it greatly alarmed and troubled her lover. Now
that the whole matter was known to him, he charged himself with
having been the cause of her serious illness, possibly of her death.
Possibly—probably of her death, for Charles had spoken of there
being cause for alarm, and he evidently had tried to make the
best of the matter. And what if she did die! how then would he,
Richard Brent, ever forgive himself? She might be dying even
then—he might reach home only to find her a corpse.

It was with such thoughts as these that Richard Brent
rode on his solitary way towards Melcomb. His first day’s
journey was a tolerably easy one, for the morning was far
advanced before he was able to start, and he found it neces-
sary to rest for the night at High Wycomb. It was on the
second day that he found these gloomy apprehensions most
oppressive. Constantly the idea of finding Julia dead recurred
to him; and whenever the thought arose, he pressed still more
rapidly homewards. .

It had been his intention to stay the night at a small town
some fifteen miles from Melcomb, for he rode his own horse,
which would probably be overdone by the whole distance ; more

os.














112 Fest and Earnest. “



over, he could have no hope of reaching his home before the
Melcomb household had retired to rest, for his coming was, as
the reader is aware, wholly unexpected. It was about sunset
when he alighted at his hostelry, and giving orders that his horse
should be littered down for the night, he entered the house.

It was the hour when gloomy thoughts are most apt to be
oppressive, and now that he was no longer in action—no longer
pressing forward—he found his apprehensions grow more
intolerable than they had been throughout the day. To drive
them away he threw up the window and looked out. It had
been market-day, and groups of country people still lingered in
the street. Just opposite to the window were the base and
shaft of an old stone market-cross. A knot of rustics talking
together were clustered round its steps, and as Richard watched
them, an itinerant ballad-singer paused near them, and began to
chant one of those melancholy ditties which have ever had so
great a charm for the English lower classes. The words might
have been current for generations, but they were new to him, and
he listened with an attentive ear. They ran somewhat in this
manner :—

“ Both old and young the churchyard throng,

The church is deckt within,

She passeth to the porch along
With all her proper kin.

Up, bridegroom, now, for should’st not thor
Be jocund at her side ?—

Ah, well-a-way the merry may
That should have been thy bride t

** No sound of wedding bells is here,

No marriage mirth, I wis ;

The solemn knell, so slow and clear,
Is heard, but only this.

With pall and bier for bridal gear
She comes, the grave is wide—

Ah, well-a-way the merry may
That should have been thy bride /

* With lips wherein thou didst delight,
That others might not touch,








Shadows of the Night. ice

The channering worm, in thy despite,
Must dally overmuch.

Wilt thou wax red with jealous dread,
And cross him in thy pride ?—

Ah, well-a-way the merry may
Lhat should have been thy bride !

“The hands that were for thee alone,

The dainty cheeks so fair,

Foul clay, with many a mouldering bone,
Must, mingling, smutch them there.

The ghastly dead, whom thou dost dread,
She heth down beside—

Ah, well-a-way the merry may
That should have been thy bride!

Richard Brent could listen no more; he closed the window
with a shudder, and, for a few moments, rapidly paced backwards
and forwards through the room. He had taken a new resolution;
ringing the bell, he gave orders that a fresh horse should be got
ready for him as quickly as possible, and that his own should
be sent on to Melcomb in the morning. He then swallowed
a few mouthfuls of the supper which was now ready, rather
for form’s sake than for any desire he now felt to eat ; and having
paid his reckoning, was soon mounted again, and on the road.

At the time he halted, the twilight was already closing in; and
now, when he again set forth, the summer night was fairly begun.
For the season, it was a dark one; the sky had become clouded
at sunset, and the moon had not risen; consequently, for all his
impatience, the pace at which Mr. Richard Brent proceeded was
necessarily a slow one.

Presently the clouds broke, and the moon, which was but
little past the full, rose slowly above the hills in all her majesty.
To save distance, our horseman travelled by cross-country roads,
along which, after the first few miles had been passed, he neither
met nor expected to meet with any belated wayfarer. Except
for the occasional hooting of an owl, all the land was still as
death ; the tired peasants had long since sank to sleep beneath
their thatched roofs; and the moon and Richard Brent—she
above and he below—had apparently the whole creation very

=|






114 Fest and Earnest.



much to themselves. To him such a ride would have been per-
fect enjoyment, but for the gloomy apprehensions which were
ever gnawing at his heart. He had ridden many miles since he
had heard eleven tolled from a distant steeple, and was now
entering the village of Hilworth; as he came near to the church
the clock struck twelve.

Richard Brent was somewhat less superstitious than most men
of his time. Yet tell me, gentle reader, whether you, however
enlightened you may be, have ever passed in solitude by a church-
yard, when the midnight hour has been tolled, without casting a
half-frightened glance among the graves to assure yourself that
no uncanny thing wasabroad? Such a glance did Richard Brent
cast, and as he did so, he could scarcely believe his eyes, for they
rested on a white figure, which suddenly threw its arms in the
air, and with a shriek disappeared; startling his horse, which
reared and snorted, and leaving him breathless with astonishment.

For a moment he was staggered, but only for a moment, for
he was no coward; in the next he had leaped down, tied his
bridle to the churchyard gate, and bounded across the hillocks to
the spot where the white phantom had vanished, determined, if
it might be, to make out the mystery. The spectre had not dis-
solved into thin air; he saw a female figure stretched behind a
grave-stone ; he stooped down, and—oh, gracious heavens !—its
face was that of Julia Heatherby.

Ix.—-MORNING,

XNXYHEN, in the uncertain light of the moon, the features of
“MS Julia Heatherby were first recognised by her lover, it
seemed to him, in the bewilderment of the moment, that she
must indeed have passed from earth, and that her spectre was
there to upbraid him. Yet, strange, almost incredible as it was to
find her at such an hour and in such a place, he was soon con-
vinced that it was indeed none other than Julia, and Julia in
substantial flesh and blood. Unconscious indeed, cold and wet






Morning. ie



with the dews of night, but still his own Julia. He raised the life-
less figure in his arms, and endeavoured to restore it to animation ;
yet so long without success, that he began to fear that his worst
apprehensions were about to prove true.

At last her eyes opened, and rested upon him, but only for a
moment; then they closed again. She could not realise his
presence ; it seemed to her that she must still be dreaming; gradu-
ally only the sound of his voice convinced her of the truth. It
was a strange meeting to which they had come by strange
ways; her own path thither had been one upon which it was a
terror to look back ; and yet now, when his arms were round her,
when she heard from his own lips the assurances of his love, she
hardly regretted the perils which had led to such an end.

The inmates of a farm-house were soon aroused, and thither
Richard Brent carried his precious charge, who appeared to him
to be so much exhausted, so fragile and ill, that he still feared he
had only recovered his treasure to lose it again. Here she was
tenderly cared for, and as soon as her lover had assured himself
that every attention would now be paid to her, he again mounted
and rode to Worsley, at which place he arrived shortly after
Julia’s absence had been discovered, and in time to dispel the
fears of her relatives before their alarm had become excessive.

But over one so delicate as Julia Heatherby the exposure and
terrors of that dreadful night could not pass without doing dis-
astrous work. They resulted in an illness which lasted for
several weeks, but in this illness there were circumstances in her
favour which had been wanting in the former one—her troubled
mind was now at rest, and her lover was restored to her. Under
these influences she in time resumed her wonted looks and gaiety
of disposition.

Her marriage with Richard Brent, which soon followed her

ecovery, was not solemnised in privacy, and at Hilworth, as
suggested by her dreaming fantasy, but, as was more fitting, in
Worsley Church, and in the presence of the members and friends
of both families,






ROM those old times in which Piers Oversley met with



‘f==] his death near the Old Stone Hunting Lodge, that build-
ing and its vicinity were believed by the peasantry to
be haunted by a spectral figure clad in a green hunting dress.
The tragical circumstances under which that unhappy gentle-
man lost his life were quite sufficient to have given rise to such
a superstition in the first place; and the fears of belated rustics,
which might easily transform a bush or a passing shadow into the
dreaded Green Huntsman, were enough to keep the belief alive.
The story of Piers Oversley also had in itself enough of horror
to make it attractive, and was told by the cottage hearths on
winter evenings from generation to generation. Thus, from
time to time during the succeeding centuries, there would ever
and anon be a report that the Green Huntsman had again been
seen; and then, if it were possible, the reputed haunts of the
spectre would be shunned still more sedulously than before.
Fortunately for the nerves of the Melcomb peasants, they had
little occasion to visit this dreaded spot even in the day-time, for,
with its whole environs, it had now become a perfect wilderness.
The Gothic lodge, the little sylvan meadow, and the bubbling well
of St. Eustace had no longer any claim even to the neglected
beauty which they possessed in the days of Isabel Brent. The
lodge was now a ruin; the well, with its edging of white stones,










Intevlogue L11. C7



was so choked with weeds and rubbish as to be almost undistin-
guishable from the swamp which surrounded it; and the whole
hollow had grown into a thick covert of thorns and brambles.
As to St. Eustace, his place knew him no more, and his ancient
domains were now unknown except as “ The Haunted Hoilow.”

For a considerable period nothing had been heard of the
spectral Green Huntsman, but some two years after the conclusion
of the last narrative, and in the early summer of 1716, it began
to be noised about that this apparition had again been seen. The
rumour attracted some attention from the fact that the spectre was
reported to have been met with several times in rapid succession,
and by various persons; whilst the narratives of those who affected
to have seen it bore such a show of truth as to gain credence
with many of the better sort of people.

But before speaking further on this matter, I must mention
certain changes which had, in these two years, taken place in the
domestic relations of the Melcomb family. Richard Brent had
married Julia Heatherby, and was now living at a distance.
Charles, now a dragoon, though usually with his regiment, was
at the time mentioned on leave of absence, and making a short
visit to his father. Their two sisters were still unmarried, but, as
was then usual, only one of them was residing at Melcomb.

Shortly after the wedding of Richard Brent, the only sister of
his father, who had married a gentleman in one of the northern
shires, became a widow; and as she was childless, and had been
left mistress of a good estate, she thought proper to require the
constant presence of one of her two nieces. In the summer of
which I am about to speak, Clarissa alone was at Melcomb,
whither she had lately returned from the North; the inmates of
the Manor House at that time were therefore Mr. Brent, with
his youngest son and daughter.

REED

H












I.—THE KEEPER’S STORY.







(a T was half-past seven o’clock, and breakfast-time at Mel-
ak iie| comb. Miss Clarissa Brent was presiding at the tea
equipage, which had recently become the rival, though

Y not yet the successor, of the tankard; whilst her father,
at the other end of the table, was letting fall sundry strictures on
the depravity of modern ways and town habits, chiefly with rela-
tion to his son Charles, who had not yet appeared. As he was
dilating more largely than usual upon this subject, he had failed to
observe that Clarissa, whose altered looks had of late been one
of his favourite troubles, appeared more pale and haggard than
ever this morning ; and she, who seemed to have a nervous dread
of his remarks about her health, was glad to be thus enabled to
escape notice.

Whether he would have turned to this topic when the first
was exhausted, I cannot say ; but, fortunately for Clarissa, a new
diversion occurred. A servant entered, announcing that Josiah
Woodcock, the gamekeeper, was below, and that he desired to
speak with his master.

“ Ask his business, and tell me what he has to say,” answered
the Squire, shortly.

In another moment the servant returned. “ He says, sir, that
what he has to tell is for your ears, and for yours alone.”







<














The Keeper's Story. 119

“Well, then, bid him come hither;” and then, turning to his
daughter, the Squire went on—* Caught a poacher again, no doubt;
some one whom he thinks I shall not care to prosecute. Well,
Woodcock,” to the keeper, who had now entered the room, and
stood, hat in hand, making a succession of short bobs—‘and
who hast thou caught teaching my hares to wear brass collars ?”

Josiah made another bob with his head, but glanced towards
Clarissa, and hesitated before answering.

“ Nonsense,” said the Squire; “if it were Burridge now, the
constable, the chances are that his business would not be fit for
my daughter to hear; but there can be no harm in thine. Out
with it, man! Who or what hast thou to tell me about ?”

“ Whether it is who or what, your worship,” answered Wood-
cock, solemnly, “is more than I know or can tell.”

“Well, well; I suppose you must take your own way to tell
your tale. Go on with it, only make it as short as you can.”

Thus chartered, the keeper cleared his throat, and began.
“Last night, your worship, I was going my rounds, as usual. I
started down by the water-side, then through Skinner’s Gorse,
over the West Hill, and down by the Humble-bee Coppice.
From there I came along by the bottom of The Wood, towards
the Haunted Hollow, and just as I got there, I heard a
sound i

Josiah stopped short, it was his way to make points in this
manner; and as he looked round, he was much pleased to observe
that Miss Clarissa was listening to his story with quite breathless
interest. As for the Squire, he only said testily, “Well, and what
did you hear ?”

“ As I was saying,” continued Woodcock, “ when I came to
the bottom of the wood, towards the Haunted Hollow, I heard
a sound which I knew well enough, for I had often heard it
before——”

“Humph! and what was it ?” enquired his master.

“Tt was the skriekin’ of a foumart in a trap,” continued
Josiah, heedless of the interruption. “So I killed the vermin,
and set the trap again. It was a dog foumart, and the biggest
I have caught this year.”




120 The Ghost of the Haunted Hollow.



“ And have you come here, then, to tell me nothing but this
story of a weasel ?” broke in the Squire.

“No, your worship,” went on the keeper, quite unmoved by
his master’s testiness, to which he was well accustomed, and
in no wise regarded. “No, your worship; I saw something else
after killing the foumart, but nothing to speak of, till I had come
round by the end of The Wood, and across the bottom of the
hollow, below the Old Lodge place. At that time, I reckon
(for the wind was the wrong way, and I could not hear the
church clock), it must have been very near upon midnight. 1 |
myself was keeping under cover, as I mostly do on moonlight |
nights; so, without being seen myself, 1 could see quite plain
everything that moved in the open.”

Here Woodcock made another pause, which elicited an inter-
rogatory, “Well?” from his master. Clarissa was still listening
with an eagerness which the tedium of the keeper's story scarcely
seemed to warrant.

“As I stood looking,” he again went on, “all of a sudden I
saw something move out from among the trees, and come towards
me. I say it moved, for it seemed to slide along more than to
walk, and I could see it quite plain in the moonlight; and as
sure as I stand here, the thing was like a man, all in strange old-
fashioned clothes, such as I never saw before, but like as pin to pin
to what one hears talk of the Green Huntsman, your worship.”

“Well, and is this all?” asked Mr. Brent, in an incredulous tone.

“No, your worship, not quite. As I said before, there was
the Green Huntsman coming towards me, and as it got nearer and
nearer, somehow I began to have a curious sort of feeling, which
I couldn’t well understand.”

“ Nay, nay, man, but I understand it well enough !” broke in
the Squire.

“ Tf your worship means to say that I was frightened,” retorted
Josiah, “it was nothing of the sort, but it was a creepy feeling.
Do you think, if I’d been afraid, I should have done as IJ did;
for I up with the old double-barrel, and levelled at the thing,
and—but Lord, sir! I’ve no business to speak of such matters
before young madam; it seems to have quite upset her.”
















The Keeper's Story. 121



He was right; Clarissa had turned deadly pale. Now,
however, she said, with a faint laugh, that it was nothing, and
bade the keeper go on with his narrative.

“As 1 was saying, I took a sure aim and pulled the trigger,

~ so the charge must have gone clean through him. But instead

of falling dead, as was reasonable for flesh and blood to do, the
thing kept straight on towards me; and as I could see no reason in
wasting more good powder and shot, I thought it better to turn
round and leave the Green Huntsman to himself.”

“Ha! ha!” laughed the Squire. “Thou wast not frightened,
Woodcock ; yet I will wager that thou didst show as clean a pair
of heels to the ghost as ever poacher showed to thee. But now,”
altering his tone, “since you saw this Green Huntsman so plainly,
tell me, as nearly as you can, what he was like ?”

“To speak the truth, sir, when the feeling came over me, I
seemed flabberghasted, and could not remember much to swear
to. Only, the thing had a curious dress, green all over—cap and
all—such as nobody would think of wearing now-a-days.”

“ And have you told this story to anyone but myself ?”

“Why, you see, your worship, I took it to be my duty to let
you hear what I had seen at once; so I kept it quite to myself,
barring only a word or two to my wife, and——”

“Well, that will do,” said the Squire; “now take care that
this matter goes no farther till I have spoken to you again. I
shall have it looked into thoroughly. You can now go;” and the
keeper withdrew.

“My dear Clarissa,’ Mr. Brent resumed, as soon as they
were alone, “your behaviour this morning has annoyed me
greatly. The absurd interest you have shown in this cock-and-
bull story is calculated to give an impression that you put faith
in these degrading superstitions. Woodcock’s relation is circum-
stantial; he has not been scared by a bush or his own shadow,
and therefore it will do all the more harm if not exposed. A trick
has been played on him; yet, if the impostor who is playing the
ghost thinks to include me among his dupes, he will find out his
mistake to his cost. I will have the matter thoroughly shown up.”

,
















122 The Ghost of the Haunted Hollow.



Il.—A MIDNIGHT WATCH.

Ke LTHOUGH Mr. Brent had, as we have seen, a somewhat
AX short and irritable temper, he was a man of clear judgment
and much determination. He was not only a professed, but a
real disbeliever in the whole pack of vulgar superstitions; and
if he had a mission, he believed that it lay in putting them down.
Hitherto he had contented himself with laughing at the stories
which told of the reappearance of the Green Huntsman; but now,
when he believed he saw that it was something more than a
delusion—that there was deception beneath it—he rejoiced in
the prospect of exposing and putting down the bugbear, once
and for ever.

When Charles Brent sauntered into the breakfast-room, he
listened to the whole history of Woodcock’s adventure, and was
quite ready to join his father in laughing at the keeper’s credulity
and want of courage. Every young man is prepared to scout
any suspicion of deficiency in the latter quality, and our friend
Charles, who was as ready as another to assert his own valour,
at once declared himself ready to watch for, and, if need be, to
encounter, the so-called ghost.

At the moment when he made this offer, he scoffed at the idea
of desiring any other companion than a stout cudgel; but as the
evening drew near, it occurred to him that he might do well to
avail himself of that knowledge of the spectre’s haunts which the
keeper had already acquired; and for that reason, though of
course for no other, he would allow Woodcock to share his vigil.

Whether, when Josiah Woodcock was summoned to accom-
pany his young master, he was greatly charmed with his office, it
is not my part to say; but forth they sallied, with a trusty ash
plant of the keeper’s providing in the hand of each.

The moon, which was just rising as they climbed the hill in
the direction of the ruined lodge, glimmered on them with a low,
uncertain light as they stood on that point of the crown of the
bank, often alluded to before, where Piers Oversley had met his
death. This had, of course, the reputation of being one of the






A Midnight Watch. 123



haunted places, but nothing now was to be seen or heard, and
the watchers deLated in low whispers on the propriety of
descending to the ruin beneath them. The proposal to do so
came from Charles, but it was discouraged by Woodcock, who
pointed out that it would be impossible for them, by the present
light, to find the steep pathway, which was now so overgrown as
to be next to impassable even by day.

Accordingly, instead of attempting to reach the lodge, they
passed along the brow of the hill to beyond the end of the wood,
and then, by an easier descent, they approached the little rivulet
which took its rise from the well of St. Eustace. This route, of
course, brought them near to the scene of Woodcock’s adventure
of the preceding night; but here, too, everything was quiet.

The calm, bright night, and the absence of anything to cause
alarm, were calculated to raise the spirits and inspire confidence,
as was also the small flask of brandy which the young soldier had
recently produced; and about this time Charles Brent began to
be troubled with a suspicion that his having brought a companion
on this expedition might possibly cause his courage to be called
in question.

Now for the amount of valour, whatever it might be, which
our budding hero possessed, he reasonably enough desired to
have full credit. He suggested, therefore, that the keeper and
himself should at this point part company. Separately, they
would see more and be less liable to be seen, besides being
enabled at the same time to keep watch in two distinct directions.

Woodcock was slow to see the force of these arguments, but
nevertheless Charles ordered him to remain on the nearer side of
the little stream, whilst he himself would cross the brook, and
steal round by the farther side of the wood. Half-an-hour after
midnight they were to meet again—the Boundary Oak, the
scene in old times of the encounter between Piers Oversley and
Gilbert Brent, being the appointed place of rendezvous.

Yet when Charles Brent found himself quite alone, creeping
onwards under the shadow of the cover-side, the night seemed
to have assumed an aspect quite different to that which it had
worn when he had a fellow-creature by his side. There was




124 The Ghost of the Haunted Follow.



something weird and ghastly in the low sighing of the wind
through the trees, and in the dark, fantastic shadows cast by the
moon. Midnight, too, was fast approaching, and the hour when
all ghostly things have a prescriptive right more especially to
terrify mankind. Now Charles, though he would never have
pleaded guilty to such a weakness, held no such decided views
on the impossibility of spectres as his strong-minded father, and
was in the bottom of his heart quite inclined to believe in the
Green Huntsman. On the whole, therefore, he resolved that,
instead of pushing forward to the farther side of the wood,
every purpose of his vigil might as well be answered by his
pursuing a track along the right bank of the rivulet, and, con-
sequently, at no great distance from the beat which Woodcock
was to take.

This route would have brought him in almost a direct line to
the place of meeting, but as more than half-an-hour must elapse
before Woodcock, proceeding by the path assigned him, could
possibly be there, he endeavoured to kill the intervening time by
walking slowly and frequently standing still.

One of his halts was beneath a large clump of trees, and as
sensations of sleep now began to come over him, he leant his
back against one of the trunks, and closed his eyes. He was
gradually sinking into a state of oblivion, when a low sound
recalled him, with a sudden start, to himself. It was a sound as
of footsteps approaching softly over the decaying leaves. Bright
as was the moonlight in the open fields, all was dark beneath
the trees; and he could make out nothing but the indistinct
outline of a human figure. He knew that Woodcock’s path
lay by the farther side of the hill, and who else could be passing
here except one, and that one was the being whom he did not
doubt but that he now saw, namely, the Green Huntsman.

He started forward; the figure stopped. He raised his
cudgel, but as he did so, the indefinite feeling that he was in the
presence of a supernatural being seemed to render him powerless,
and his arm dropped again; another moment, and the conscious-
ness that it was folly to offer violence to a being of the other
world was too much for him. In short, he turned round and








A Midnight Watch. 125

fairly took to his heels, never stopping till he stood beside the
shattered trunk of the old Boundary Oak.

Before he had fairly regained his wind, the keeper also came
up, breathless with speed. “I’ve seen him again, Master
Charles!” were his first words, as soon as he could speak.

“Who?” said Charles; “the Green Huntsman ?”

“ Ay, sir, sure enough. After leaving you, I turned up the
hill again, and watched for some time among the trees; and
then, thinks I, if there’s roguery afoot, I’m more like to see it
down in the hollow than beyond the bank, so I just came quietly
down the side of the meadow till I reached Brookend Clumps.”

“Down to Brookend Clumps!” repeated Charles, an uncom-
fortable suspicion beginning to dawn upon him.

“Just so, sir; and as I was coming under the trees, all of a
sudden the thing started up out of the ground, right in front of
me. I couldn’t see much, to be sure, there, in the dark; but I
knew that it was the Green Huntsman. At me it came, with its
hunting-pole lifted, and I was so taken aback that I never thought
of using my stick, but only tried to recollect a prayer or two;
and it was well for me that I did so, for as soon as I began to
repeat one, the thing vanished away as suddenly as it came.”

As Josiah Woodcock proceeded with his narrative, the alarm
of our friend Charles had gradually given place to a feeling of
merriment, and at its close he broke into a laugh. “Woodcock,”
he said, as the keeper finished, “we two wise men have been
making consummate asses of each other. It was I, coming from
behind a tree, that alarmed you. Never mind; I was quite as
much frightened as you were, and ran away faster, as my getting
here first shows. Well, this must be a lesson to us; we shall
not be so easily scared again, shall we ?” .

It took Woodcock some moments to swallow the unpalatable
truth ; but when he had fairly digested it, he said, in a tone of some
disgust, “I tell you what, Master Charles; after being fooled in
this way, I should just like to see the ghost, really and truly; and
be he man or be he devil, he should have a taste of my stick.”

“Yes,” said Charles, “we shall be more on our mettle now.”

As he spoke, the clock of Melcomb Church tolled twelve.






126 The Ghost of the Haunted Hollow.



The vibrations of the last stroke had scarcely died away,
before a thrill of awe passed through the two listeners; for, as
though answering to its echoes, the faint note of a horn was
heard in the direction of Melcomb Wood. They gazed up the
meadow towards the spot whence the sound proceeded. Under
the moon, now shining in all her splendour, the open greensward
lay bright and light as day, and from among the trees, on one
side of the hollow, they saw a figure emerge—a figure plainly
visible, and in all respects answering to the description of the
Green Huntsman—and pass slowly to the other side, where it
again disappeared among the shadows.

Whilst it was in sight, the two men stood gazing on it as if
rooted to the ground; but as soon as it had vanished, Woodcock
asked, “Shall we follow it, Master Charles ?”

“No,” said Charles, with a shudder; “we have seen enough
for to-night. Let us go home.”

il.—THE MYSTERY UNSOLVED.

Kt the next morning’s breakfast-table, Charles Brent made
A his appearance in very tolerable time, and gave a frank
relation of all that had happened on the preceding night.

The mutual blunder of Woodcock and himself he thought
proper to place in a ludicrous light, and he was by no means
abashed at the hearty laughter in which his father indulged at his
expense. But when he came to speak of the apparition at mid-
night, and to admit that he inclined to think of it as an actual
phantom, Mr. Brent assumed a more serious tone. “ Charles,”
he said, “you grieve and astonish me; I am ashamed that any
son of mine should confess to even thinking it possible to believe
in these degrading superstitions.”

“J am sorry, sit, to incur your displeasure,” replied Charles,
“but I only tell you what I have witnessed, and submit that I
see no way of explaining this appearance so readily as by admit-
ting the popular belief. If it can be explained otherwise, I should -




The Mystery Unsolved. Wer



be glad to have it done; but after last night's experience, I do
not myself wish to undertake the solution ; I have seen enough.”

“And explained it shall be,” said Mr. Brent, “if 2] have
myself to visit the place every night till the imposture is exposed.”

Then;sir, wephied iis son, “T advise you to engage a more
valorous colleague than mine of last evening.’

“Do you imagine that I am to be scared by hobgoblins ?”
retorted his father. “I shall need none but my pistols; and this
impostor had best be wary, for I shall not be slow in using them.”

Although Clarissa took no part in this conversation, it must
not be supposed that she was a heedless listener. The interest
which the keeper’s tale had excited was still apparently active in
her mind, and to every word that was uttered about the Green
Huntsman she gave the most marked attention. Indeed, when
her father announced the above resolution, she, as was perhaps the
duty of an affectionate daughter, tried her best to dissuade him
from an enterprise so little suited to his time of life.

Once or twice during the day she found occasion to enter his
private business-room, and to revert to the subject. On one of
these visits she found him carefully loading his pistols, and as
she watched the process with apparent curiosity, she again tried
her dissuasive powers; but finding that she did so in vain, she
begged him in any case not to venture into the rugged hollow
by. night, where a false step might cost him a dangerous fall.
But Henry Brent’s resolutions were not to be shaken : he gave
her to understand that he should not only visit the hollow, but
explore the ruined lodge itself. The expression of distress on
Miss Brent’s face when she heard this, told how much she had
been bent on gaining her end.

At a still later hour, on the Squire suddenly entering his
sanctum, he found his daughter awaiting him, and as she was
standing close to the shelf on which he had temporarily deposited
his pistols, he thought it a fit opportunity to drop a word of
caution on the danger of inexperienced persons touching fire-
arms; to which Clarissa quietly acquiesced. He had expected
that she was come to revert to their former subject of conversa-
tion, but he was mistaken; she merely wished to speak about

=








128 The Ghost of the Haunted Hollow.



some little household matter; and as she went out immediately
afterwards for a long walk in the grounds, he was not again
teased with her girlish apprehensions.

The other members of his family had retired to rest when,
buttoning himself tightly in his surtout, and stowing his weapons
in a convenient pocket, Mr. Brent took his way in the direction
of the dreaded hollow. Although he was now verging upon
threescore, and had lost much of the physical activity for which
he had been remarkable in earlier life, Henry Brent was still
strong and vigorous, and the energy of his mind might be said
to make up for any falling off in his bodily powers. Many years
had passed by since he had visited the spot for which he was
now bound; and as he forced his way through the tangled
thickets, he had to rely for guidance on his recollections of the
— locality when a young and enthusiastic sportsman; for the low
moon cast no light as yet into this deep hollow, and the ancient
pathway had long since been overgrown and lost.

“The fayre and goodley Lodge of St. Eustace,” as I find it
described in an old deed—shunned and neglected as it had been
for centuries—was now a mere ruin; its traceried windows
shattered, and its stone roof in many places broken through.
Rising, as it did, in its desolation, from the midst of thorns and
brambles, it looked ghastly and melancholy enough in the wan
moonlight; and Henry Brent, as he stood before it, could not
help admitting that anyone less free from superstitious fancies ©
than himself might have been pardoned for letting some feeling
of ghostly awe creep through him at such a sight.

To within a few yards of the building Mr. Brent’s progress
had been made with difficulty, but he found, rather to his sur-
prise, that there was now a tolerably open pathway to the door.
After spending a few moments in quietly surveying the outside,
he stepped to the archway that he might pass within.

But here, for the first time, he met with a serious obstruction.
The passage was completely choked with thorns, and the stones
and rubbish of the dilapidated building, so that he could get no
farther. He was not a little nettled at this hindrance. He had
made up his mind to spend midnight in the ruined lodge ; and








The Mystery Unsolved. 129

by so doing, to show to the cowardly and superstitious people
around him how great was his contempt for such weaknesses as
theirs. Midnight would shortly strike; and here was he, baffled
and stopped on the very threshold.

Completely undaunted by the ghastly look of the place, and
by the deathlike silence which prevailed around, he at once
began to remove the obstacles which impeded hint The task
was a more serious one than he had anticipated, and a quarter of
an hour must have passed by before he had made any sensible
progress in clearing the way, or, indeed, in doing anything beyond
scratching his hands, and exhausting his always scanty stock of
patience. Yet he continued his work with unabated energy, when
the strokes of the village clock, announcing midnight, fell upon
his ears, and as he counted them, he paused from his labours.

Hitherto the interior of the lodge had been wrapped in com-
plete silence ; but now, as he listened, he fancied that some faint
indications of sound proceeded from within; a moment afterwards,
and he believed he could distinguish footfalls, as of some one
moving softly over the stone floor; another second, and a deep
groan rang through the broken arches of the ancient building.

Strong as were his nerves, Henry Brent gave an involuntary
start at this sudden and ominous sound, and he listened atten-
tively to hear it repeated; but there was no repetition ; the
silence now remained wholly unbroken; and in a few minutes he
began to suspect his imagination must have played him some
trick, or, at the most, that the sound he had heard could only have
been the screech of an owl. In this conviction he returned to his
task, and again set himself strenuously to force the passage.

Scarcely, however, had he recommenced, when a slight noise
from without made him spring up and turn round. There was
no mistake this time. Barely six paces from the doorway, having
apparently glided past him from the ruin, and now rapidly dis-
appearing down the pathway, across which a bright gleam of
moonlight by this time lay, he beheld, past all question, the
figure of the Green Huntsman.

Mr. Brent was slightly startled, but his courage and prompti-
tude in no wise faltered. He called to the apparition to stand.






130 The Ghost of the Haunted Hollow.

There was no response, no halt; and first one, then a second
pistol-shot echoed up the Haunted Hollow and through Melcomb
Woods, and then all was silent again.

“That yonder clown, Woodcock, shut his eyes, ot fired at
the stars, I can more readily believe than not,” said the Squire to
himself, as he deliberately pulled up the cocks of his pistols,
closed the pans, and bolted them again; “but that my aim was
cool and steady I can make affidavit. I would have wagered
Melcomb Manor on either of those two shots.” So saying, he
slowly took his way homeward.

IV.—A LOVERS’ MEETING.

*@YCARCELY three hours later than the time at which my last
dk)’ chapter came to an end, as the earliest summer dawn was
breaking, two persons were seated on the bank of the little
brook, so often mentioned. The hour was a most delicious one
in early June time, an hour at which the birds were all awake
and singing lustily, whilst the hares were limping lazily across
the sweet moist grass, and daintily picking their breakfasts here
and there. Yet it was not an hour about which many of us
know much from experience, for all ordinary human beings may
then be relied upon as lying snugly asleep in their comfortable
beds; for which very reason, indeed, the two individuals in
question had chosen this time for their meeting.

One of these persons was none other than our fair friend,
Miss Clarissa Brent. Her companion was a gentleman whose
youthful appearance ill accorded with the terror which the wearer
of his costume was in the habit of inspiring; for he was clad in
the green cap and hunting-dress, of antique fashion, which tradi-
tion was wont to associate with the dreaded Green Huntsman.
By listening to their conversation we may, perhaps, gain some
clue to the mystery which had perplexed the owner of Melcomb
and his household, if not the reader.

“Did my father pay his threatened visit to your retreat ?”




BRIGHT SUNRISE.

Sunrise glory
Bright and fleet,
Youth and Maiden
Fresh and sweet,
Lifes young delight
Is morning bright.

Clouds arising
Dim the sky;
Loves first rapture
Passes by,
Then blank and erey
Lifes clouded day.









A LOVERS’ MEETING.





A Lovers’ Meeting. Dae



asked Miss Brent. “I heard him return to the house; but of
the results of his watch I have, of course, as yet learned nothing.”

“Yes, my sweet Clarissa, I have had an interview with your
father, and I must say that I have formed a high opinion of his
courage and decision—of which, indeed, I was near having rather
too convincing a proof. Had it not been for your wise precaution
of removing the bullets from his pistols, our first meeting would
also have been our last, and at this moment I should have been
a genuine ghost instead of an indifferent counterfeit.”

“Oh. Maurice, Maurice!” said Clarissa, “1 wish you would
not jest at everything, nor expose yourself in this manner to
needless dangers. I told you that nothing could frighten my
father, and entreated you not to encounter him. Only think
if he had reloaded his pistols!”

“My wise little counsellor,” was the answer, “you must not
scold me. Had it been possible, I should have avoided him.
Well barricaded, I kept my chamber in my ancient mansion
yonder—which is, by-the-bye, from the state of its roof, a more
desirable residence in dry than in wet weather, and stands much
in need of repairs—I believed my castle impregnable, and, like an
indolent spectre had no intention of walking earlier than the hour
of our assignation. But this courageous father of yours attacked
my fortress, first by storm, and then by sap. I defended myself
by a volley of groans—the only artillery at my command—but
the enemy was not to be repulsed; so I, like a prudent governor,
fearing to be captured in my works, beat a retreat through the
window, and tried to steal off unobserved by his flank. Then it
was that he saw me, and opened fire; but for reasons that you
know of, I was enabled to bring off my forces without casualty.
There, my sweet friend, you have the whole story; and now
admit that 1 was not to blame.”

“No,” she said, “I do not blame you; but I am frightened,
Maurice, at the light way in which you speak of these dangers.”

“Some six months of close acquaintance with peril by night
and day are quite enough to entitle one to treat it with
familiarity,” replied the youth, laughing. “But now, my dear
Clarissa, I purpose to ask for an introduction to the breakfast


134 The Ghost of the Haunted Hollow.



you have brought for me; for, under all my troubles, my appetite
still remains admirable.”

As he said this, he opened the dainty little basket which
Clarissa had placed on the grass; and the young lady was
amused to see with what relish he began to demolish its contents.
Soon, however, she assumed an air of much gravity and wisdom.
“Maurice Turnbull,” she said, “listen to me. Although you
may be able to laugh at these dangers, Iam not. Have you
never thought in what a miserable state of apprehension I have
lived for the last month, or how my fears have been increased
since you have been so often seen, and the Green Huntsman has
become common talk? And now, since my father has been
incited to solve the mystery, I have been most wretched ; for I
know that he will never rest till you are found out. Do you not
see how I am worn with anxiety? For my sake, if not for your
own, you must consent to put an end to this deception.”

“ My dearest Clarissa,” her lover answered tenderly, taking
both her hands in his own, and looking in her face, “ you say
well. Though constant danger may have made me careless, I
have no right to make you suffer; but then,” and he slid back
into his old light way of talking, “what am I to do? Shall I
sue for the mercy of the Elector of Hanover, only to find what
his clemency is worth, as.so many of my friends have done,
when some fine morning I am swinging in the midst of goodly
company on the Tyburn Tree? If you give me up, no one else
will shelter me; and I have no means of escaping abroad.”

“You need not speak thus of the King,” she answered. “He
has pardoned your friend Charles Ratcliffe, and might pardon
you; and yet the risk is too great. No, throw yourself on the
generosity of my father. He is a gentleman, and will not betray
the trust reposed in him. He is a brave man, and will respect
your courage. And beyond this,” and here Clarissa smiled, “he
will be so overjoyed to find that the ghost was a delusion, that
he will be in the mood to be generous. Believe me, Maurice,
you will not repent if you are guided by me.” ,

“Admirably argued, my most sage counsellor,” replied
Turnbull; “only, I think there are one or two points to which




A Lovers’ Meeting. 135

you have not given their due weight. A prudent father will
scarcely approve of his daughter sheltering a clandestine and
proscribed lover ; and a well-known staunch subject of the powers
that be will consider that he has a plain duty to perform in
dealing with what he will be pleased to term a rebel. It
seems to me that the desire to be rid of the undesirable suitor
will make the duty of handing him over to the Government so
imperative, that Mr, Brent will scarcely be able to resist it.”

“ Maurice,” said Clarissa, in a low tone, “you are partly right.
My father will not approve of what I have done, and I shall have
much censure, perhaps punishment, to bear; but you wrong
him if you believe that he would betray a confidence to serve his
own convenience, or to gratify his revenge. No; take the word
of a daughter who knows him well; throw yourself on his honour,
and you will be sure of such shelter and means of escape as he
can command.”

He considered for a little, and then said, “ Clarissa, I will do
as you advise.”

“You promise ?” |

“Yes, I promise.

“Good,” she said, rising; “I will, if possible, bring my father
to the Old Lodge, and you shall speak with him before noon. Be
assured you may trust him, and all will be well; except,’ she
said, the tears rising to her eyes—“ except for one consequence
that will surely follow.”

“ And what will that consequence be ?” he asked.

“A bitter one for me—but no matter—I cannot tell you.
I have your promise—Adieu!” and she left him to seek the
shelter of his ruin, and to ruminate on what she had said.

V.—FATHER AND DAUGHTER.

‘XeT the ordinary hour Clarissa Brent was seated at the break-
Pa fast table as usual, and there was nothing in her appearance
to raise a suspicion that for the past four hours she had not been
in her bed. After her father’s midnight watch, she almost




136 The Ghost of the Haunted Hollow.



doubted whether he would appear; but she knew how high
a value he placed on punctuality, and she was determined, on
this momentous morning, to do nothing which might cross his
temper, and thus endanger her schemes.

It was well that she did so, for he was at his seat to the
minute, and showed, by his knitted brows and the silence which
he maintained, that the results of his moonlight walk had not
been such as to put him into his most amiable frame of mind.

Charles, as usual, did not appear; and Clarissa had hoped
that, during their ¢é¢e-d-¢éte over the breakfast table, her father
might have spoken freely of his last night’s adventures, and thus
have given an easy opening for her confession. But it was not
so. Mr. Brent was too thoughtful even to find fault with trifles,
and scarcely uttered a word.

The meal was more than half over before Clarissa ventured
timidly to ask what he had seen on the previous night, and
whether he had made such discoveries as he had hoped for.

“No,” he said, shortly, “I have not found out all that I
intended to find out, or that I intend to find out;” and a moment
or two afterwards he added, “ When that sluggard, Charles,
comes down, send him to my room; I shall require him to
accompany me to the Old Stone Hunting Lodge at eleven
o'clock. Remember that you tell him this.”

Clarissa gave the required promise, and the remainder of the
meal passed off in almost total silence. It was evident that this
was not a favourable time at which to tell her tale.

It was not till Mr. Brent rose to leave the room that she
dared in any degree to clear the way for her task; then, as he
stood near the door, she went up to him, and, looking in his face,
said, with a trembling voice, “Papa, I want to ask a favour of

ou.”
He looked down at her with more tenderness than he had
shown before that morning. “Well, my dear,” he said, “what is
ite”

“It is that, when you go to the Old Lodge this morning, I,
and I alone, may go with you.”

Her father’s eyes opened to their widest, and then a sterner


father and Daughter. Lag

look came over his face. “Indeed,” he said, “I did not expect
that you, who were so terribly scared at these hobgoblin tales,
would have any wish to visit that particular spot.”

“But I do wish to go, papa.”

“Pooh, pooh, child! you are absurd. No woman with her
ridiculous draperies can pass through the bramble brakes in the
Haunted Hollow.” ;

“But, papa, I can lead you by a perfectly open path, and I
have reasons for wishing to go with you which I cannot give
now. I havesomething to say to you, something very particular.
Do promise me that I, and not Charles, may go;” and she
looked up in his face with eyes of such earnest entreaty, that
Henry Brent, who in his heart loved this daughter above every-
thing beside, could not resist her.

“Well,” he said, “women always get their own way, and I
suppose that you must have yours. You need not deliver my
message to Charles; and remember that I shall be ready at
eleven—eleven to the minute.”

For long past Clarissa Brent had undergone her share of
suspense and anxiety; but she had never felt their pangs so
keenly as for the three miserable hours which had now to be got
through. Yet eleven came at last, and she set out with her
father across the fields.

For a distance they walked in silence. The Squire was
aware that she had something of importance to communicate,
and waited for her to do so; whilst she, with a throbbing heart,
trembled to open the subject, and beat hopelessly about for
words in which to begin. At last she said, “ Papa, you saw this
spectre of the Green Huntsman last night.”

“Spectre or no spectre, Clarissa, I did see a figure answering
to the description of the Green Huntsman; and though I am no
more a believer in the ghost to-day than I was before, I must
admit that there is some mystery which has at present baffled me.”

“Perhaps, papa, I can help you to unravel this mystery better
than anyone else.”

“Eh, what ?” he exclaimed, turning sharply round upon her.

“Oh, papa, do not be angry with me. There is much that
















138 The Ghost of the Haunted Hollow.



I want to tell you. I fear that I have done what you will think
very imprudent—perhaps very wrong.”

I have mentioned that Henry Brent, stern and severe as he
was to most people, had always a tender place in his heart for
his youngest daughter; and this was shown at the present
moment; he drew her arm gently within his own, and said, in a
voice which reassured her, “ Well, my child, tell me everything.”

“It is more than a year ago, when I was staying at aunt's,
that I met with a young gentleman of that neighbourhood,
Mr. Maurice Turnbull. You know how strict and cross aunt is,
and I could not tell her frankly all about it, as I am sure I should
have told you had I been at home; and so we went on writing
and seeing each other in secret. 1 knew that it was wrong, and
yet somehow I seemed to drift into an engagement without
meaning it. I did, indeed, wish to write and tell you more than
once, but Maurice feared that you would never approve of my
giving encouragement to one of his political principles. All his
people are hot Jacobites; and at the rising last summer he went
out with his friends. He escaped from Preston, and has since
been hiding in different parts of the country; and a month
since, when he could no longer find shelter elsewhere, he
came here.”

“Ha!” exclaimed Mr. Brent; “I think I begin to see through
the matter now.”

“He came here, papa; and what could Ido! I dared not
tell you, and I could not refuse to help him in his distress ;
so for the past month he has been hiding in the Old Lodge. The
ghost make-believe was all my doing. It was I who thought of
disguising him thus, and I it was who procured the dress which
has deceived everybody.”

“ And you have met with him frequently.”

“Yes, papa; I confess that I have seen him daily, and
supplied him with food.”

“Clarissa, you are in many respects a sensible girl. Do you
suppose it possible that I can approve of all this deception and
underhand dealing ?”

“Oh no, I know you cannot. I know I have done very




Father and Daughter. 139



wrongly. I do not expect your approval. I only ask for your
forgiveness, and your protection for poor Maurice.”

“ Now tell me—I must ask a delicate question—Is this young
man, this young Turnbull, very dear to you? would it grieve you
very deeply to give him up ?” ‘

“ He is very, very dear to me, papa.” t

“ Clarissa, neither of the things you ask are easy for me to
grant. You have-not acted openly, honourably, or like your
father’s daughter in this matter; and it is not for me to say at
once, ‘I forgive you, merely because you say, ‘I am sorry.’
Nor is it a simple thing for me to promise protection to this
young man. I cannot look with favour upon his crime—for such
itis. A heavy crime I consider it, to seek to involve the land
in the miseries of civil war, for no better motive than the ground-
less hope of restoring a dynasty which has been expelled for its
inability to govern. Yet enough blood has already been shed ;
and, criminal as I think him, Heaven forbid that I should seek to
betray him to his death. I might perhaps be able, through some
of my friends, to arrange for his safe conveyance to foreign parts.”

“Oh, papa! and will you do this ?”

“Ves, I will promise to do so on one condition—a condition
which, after what you have said, you will perhaps think hard,
but one which I consider right and necessary.”

She looked up in his face with streaming eyes—“ Anything
that I can do, any sacrifice that I can make, I am ready for, if
it will purchase poor Maurice’s safety.”

“Of this youth,” her father continued, “I know but two
things—that he is a rebel, and that he has wooed my daughter
in a clandestine manner; and more of such a man I care not to
know. But on this point I am resolved, that such a one shall
never, with my consent, have the hand of a child of mine. My
condition is that, if I provide for the safety of young Turnbull,
you pledge your word of honour wholly to give him up—never
again to encourage his advances, nor to consider him as a lover.”

This condition had been expected by Clarissa Brent. It was
to this that she had looked forward with dread, but had not
dared to name, at the close of her last interview with Maurice








140 The Ghost of the Haunted Hollow.



Turnbull. She had made up her mind that it must come to this,
and had thought herself prepared to make the renunciation ; and
“yet, now when the fatal words were to be said by which the bond
that united her to her lover would be severed for ever, it seemed
as though she could not bring herself to utter the irrevocable
promise.

At last, however, she made an effort; and, looking up with
eyes full of tears, she laid her hand in his, and said firmly,
“Father, I accept the condition, and pledge myself to keep it
inviolate. Come what will, you shall find that you have a
daughter possessed of as true a sense of honour as yourself.”

VIL—RENUNCIATION.

RY a circuitous path which wound among the bramble brakes
J» in a series of zig-zags, and one which would have utterly
bewildered any uninitiated person, Clarissa led her father to the
Old Stone Hunting Lodge. Arrived there, the barrier which
blocked its entrance on the previous night was found to have
been removed, so that the interior was reached without any
difficulty whatever.

It will scarcely be necessary to repeat at full length the whole
conversation which took place at this interview. Young Turnbull
was expecting the arrival of his guests; and Mr. Brent informed
him that the danger of his present position had already been
fully explained to him, as well as the whole chain of circumstances
which had resulted in his seeking Melcomb as a place of shelter.
Whilst expressing much sympathy with the young man’s mis-
fortunes, he delicately abstained from making any mention of
their cause, which might have brought their opposite political
leanings into collision ; and he concluded by offering the use of
his purse and influence for the purpose of conveying the fugitive
Jacobite to a place of safety beyond the seas.

This offer was accepted by Maurice Turnbull with many
We Saereesions of gratitude; and it was then arranged that a suitable


Renunciation. 141

dress should be provided by Mr. Brent, together with a horse
and a trusty servant, with all possible expedition; and that the
youth should proceed under a feigned name to Bristol, where he
would be accredited to a merchant of that city, a kinsman of the
Squire’s, and a person whose good offices he could command.

No socner had this plan been agreed upon, than Mr.“Brent
prepared to depart. “Clarissa,” he said, “you will probably have
something more to say to Mr. Turnbull, as you will not have any
future opportunity of meeting with him. I shall await you, ten
minutes hence, on the brow of the hill;’ and courteously taking
leave of the young Jacobite, he left the lodge.

Then it was that, in a few heart-broken words, Clarissa
Brent first told her lover cf the condition on which her father’s
aid to his escape had been purchased, and that from that moment,
under whatever circumstances they might hereafter find them-
selves, they must be as strangers to each other.

Even then, Maurice Turnbull would have thrown aside his
hopes of flight, and faced the worst, rather than consent to such
a stipulation; but Clarissa silenced his hot and hasty words.
She told him, in a voice still firm amid all her tears, that it was
now too late—that her promise had been given and must be
kept—and that by neglecting his own safety he would only add
another sorrow to her weight of misery; and conjuring him to
cherish his own life for better fortunes in the future, and with
one last bitter embrace, she tore herself away.

A fortnight later, Mr. Brent received a letter from his kins-
man, Humphrey Daniell, merchant, of the city of Bristol, with
the information that the young gentleman, Mr. Lewis Allen, who
had been honoured by his recommendations, had the day before
sailed for Hamburg in one of the writer’s vessels, with every
prospect of making a prosperous voyage.

Whether, during the years which succeeded the departure of
Maurice Turnbull, Clarissa Brent thought constantly of her lost
lover, or wept for him in secret, I have no means of knowing;
but if she did so, she assuredly gave no outward sign of her
grief; indeed, for general cheerfulness, as well as sweetness of
manner, no one was more remarkable than she was. After the




142 The Ghost of the Haunted Hollow.



wedding of her sister Alice, which shortly took place, she refused
more than one advantageous offer of marriage; from which it
might be argued that the hero of the Haunted Hollow still kept
his place in her heart. But such was not the general opinion.
The Melcomb neighbours, who certainly never knew that she
had had such a lover, attributed her choice of a single life to a
desire to devote herself wholly to her remaining parent, whose
health at this time was rapidly declining, and whose constant
nurse and companion she was.

It was in the fourth summer after the farewell scene in the
Old Lodge, and at the time when her father’s death was looked
upon as a question of a few weeks only, that Clarissa left his
sick-room to proceed on some errand of mercy to the village,
and that she was accosted on her way by a gentleman of slightly
foreign appearance and military bearing, in whom, though much
changed, it was not difficult for her to recognise her old lover,
Maurice Turnbull.

The encounter was too sudden to have permitted her to
avoid him, as she might, perhaps, have considered herself bound
to do had the choice been allowed her; and she had no alterna-
tive but to listen meekly to the many things which he poured
into her ears.

He told her that, after reaching the North of Europe, he had
sought employment under the Czar Peter of Muscovy, who at
that time held out liberal inducements to foreign adventurers to
enter his service—that he had found good promotion, and had
risen reasonably high in command—that with much difficulty,
and at the hazard of his life, he had visited England for no
other purpose than that he might entreat her to become his wife;
for that, without her, the good fortune which seemed now to be
opening before him would be vain and valueless.

To which Clarissa answered, very simply, that of one thing
he might always be confident, namely—that her hand would
never be given to any other man, but that, once for all, she must
tell him that her word was irrevocably pledged never to marry
him, and that, whatever pain it might cost to do so, the promise
she had given must be sacred.




Renunciation. 143

It was in vain that he urged her again to open the subject to
her father, and endeavour to obtain some remission of his stipu-
lation; she assured him that she well knew the stubbornness of
her father’s will, and that he would never go back from a resolu-
tion which he had once formed.

In his disappointment at her refusal to accede to his request
on this point, Maurice Turnbull declared that he would, at all
risks, present himself before Mr. Brent, and represent to him the
cruelty and injustice of his conduct.

This declaration obliged Clarissa to inform her lover of the
critical state of her father’s health, and that the agitation caused
by seeing him might probably be attended with fatal results.
This news again raised the young man’s hopes. He endeavoured
to convince her that in the event of her father’s death her pro- |
mise could no longer be binding, and that then at least she
might promise to be his. But Clarissa only shook her head
sadly ; not even such an event, she said, could liberate her, for
that she must equally hold herself bound to the dead as to the
living; and then, entreating him not to add to her unhappiness
by further importunities—which it was beyond her power to grant,
and bitter pain to refuse—she made him promise not to visit
Melcomb, nor seek to speak with her again.

Thus they parted; and, to the letter at least, Maurice
Turnbull kept the promise she had wrung from him. He did
not come again to Melcomb; and yet he could not leave the
country without one more final effort. That night there came a
messenger bearing a packet for Miss Clarissa Brent, and a small
basket. They were sent by her lover; and the letter, dated
from a well-known inn in the neighbourhood, set forth in still
more tender terms, if such were possible, the same sentiments he
had uttered in the morning.

It assured her that time and absence had not lessened, but
increased his admiration and love for her; and that the readiness
with which he had now risked his safety to see her might con-
vince her how little he cared for life without her. If it was still
her deliberate will, he said, that he should not again approach
her, he could be loyal and obey, whatever suffering it might cost




144 The Ghost of the Haunted Hollow.





him, even as he had been loyal to exile to his king; yet that one
word from her would bring him joyfully to her side. He had
sent her this missive, he told her, that she might once more well
consider the matter; and he bade her reflect that perseverance in
her present resolution would entail life-long sorrow on one, and,
if he judged her rightly, on both of them. He knew, he said,
that it would be difficult for her to send a messenger to him, and
he had therefore sent one to her, which she could detain till she
was quite sure of her final determination. His stay was wholly
dependent on her pleasure; and the arrival of his messenger
with an adverse decision would be the signal for his again setting
out for his life of solitary exile, from which he could never hope
or expect to return.

Clarissa Brent aftewards acknowledged that this last mental
struggle was the most severe of all. She had thought that when
she said farewell that morning everything was over, and that
her conscience had triumphed; but now the strife had to be
opened anew; and it went all the harder with her that now there
was no immediate call upon her decision, and that she had time
to realise the happiness which might be hers, and which she well
knew that she must renounce. Yet she did not swerve from her
determination. When morning came she had written a brief
note, in which she simply repeated what she had said on the
previous day, and bade adieu to Maurice Turnbull for ever.
Then taking the pigeon from its cage, and caressing it for the
sake of him to whom it was about to fly, she fastened the letter
to its neck, and flung it from her window. “At that moment,”
she said, in speaking to Julia, long afterwards, of the circum-
stance—“ at that moment I could indeed have said, without
metaphor, that my last hope had flown.”












News FROM FAR.

On letter, small and white
Thou art not to the sight
A thing to prize,

Yet when thou dost appear
What thoughts of hope and fear
In tumult rise!

What swift forebodings fill

With varying 00d and ill
The. throbbing, heart!

What quivering of the lips

As trembling finger-tips
Tear thee apart !





THE LAST HOPE GONE,


Bee)

wy

as
i eh?
VAN i

\
7)

ie a

Git
Nisa
el

Go
UL a

Ke












T is possible that the reader may desire to know some-
what more of the after fate of the characters with whom
they have become acquainted in the course of the two

last chronicles. It is but little that I have to tell them,
and in that little he will find that sadness predominates.

That episode in the life of Miss Clarissa Brent, which has
last been related, was seen to work no outward change in her
looks or manners; indeed, it passed unknown and unnoticed by
all around her, and she was still the same gentle and cheerful
being as before; nor did her father ever know how cruel
a wound he had given to the happiness of the daughter he loved.

It was not long before she lost what was now apparently the
one object of her life, for Henry Brent soon afterwards took his
place among his ancestors beneath the parish church, and his
son Richard succeeded him in Melcomb Manor.

But why should I seek longer to conceal from the reader that
this Richard Brent was none other than myself? I it was who
played the hero in the third of these histories, and it was I who
now took up my abode in the home of my fathers, which now
for a time seemed full of life and sunshine; for my beautiful
Julia and our three children gave youth and brightness to the
grey old walls.

Clarissa still remained with us; and, alas! her loving care and
tenderness were not long to remain without objects for which all








148 Melcomb Manor.



their gentleness would be needed. Whether the seeds of disease
had been sown in Julia’s delicate constitution on the night of that
terrible walk, I know not; but soon after this time she began to
droop and fade, and, in spite of all our solicitude, passed away
from us. Then, one by one, our little ones followed her; and I
and Clarissa were left alone.

I'had bitter griefs then; but she knew how to make them
fall less heavily. I did not, as most people do, feel my bereave-
ment fully at the time; my great loneliness has been reserved
for after years. For long now I have been quite alone. None
of my family remain to cheer me with their love or sympathy.
Alice died early; Charles, doubtless, has long been dead, but
uncertainty hangs over his fate; and Clarissa’s tablet in Melcomb
Church records that she died, unmarried, in the thirty-fourth
year of her age. It also states that she was beloved by all who
knew her. In that epitaph there is no touch of falsehood.

Of Maurice Turnbull nothing more was ever heard. Whether,
careless of his life, he threw it rashly away in a stranger’s quarrel,
or whether in time he forgot his first love, and became the
husband and father of a happy family in the land of his adoption,
I never could discover. But he never came to Melcomb again ;
nor, to the best of my knowledge, was the spectral form of the
Green Huntsman ever again known to appear in the Haunted
Hollow or in Melcomb Woods.

And at this place it will be needful that I should bring my
chronicle to an end. In telling these stories of the bygone
fortunes of my family, and of my own past life, I have at least
been able to shake off some oppressive thoughts, and to while
away some hours of weariness. For the time being my labour
has peopled these solitary walls with a goodly company—phan-
toms truly, yet phantoms, it may be, whose society has given
pleasure to others as well as to myself. If they have indeed
done this, they have performed the task required of them. Let
them now fade away, pass, and be forgotten.



Marcus Ward & Co., Printers, Royal Ulster Works, Belfast.




*,