Page images

suffered, and by suffering encouraged may have sufficient weight to countersuch things, who fawned upon the hand balance that authority which is but that pressed them to the ground, who delegated by the people, and which the bowed readily to tyranny whenever it people can again resume.” stretched forth its rod, have as great a “ Fatal confidence," exclaimed the share of the responsibility as he has cavalier, with a dark and melancholy who only used the powers transmitted look, “which never has been, never to him by his father. But I come not will be justified! Yet it is one that in to discuss such questions, Charles all civil strifes many wise and many good Walton. The king has committed men have entertained, till they found, errors, he grieves for them, he is when too late, how cruelly they had ready to repair them-he has done all deceived themselves ; till hanging bethat man can do to remedy evils past, tween two parties and supporting and provide security against their re- neither, they saw the one sink lower currence. He calls upon every loyal and lower, and the other, which persubject to aid him, not only in defend haps, they most condemned, rise into ing the throne itself, but the country, power, and go on in evil; and then from those who would evidently shake when they strove to arrest the course its constitution to the ground, over- of wrong, found themselves either throw its best institutions, and esta- carried away by the current and inblish, if not the reign of anarchy, the volved in wickedness they would fain rule of a many-headed monster, which have opposed, or sunk beneath the torwill, if tolerated, end in a despotism rent with those who endeavoured to more terrible than any we have yet divert it while yet it was feeble, and seen within the land. And will Charles whose efforts they might have rendered Walton, gallant and chivalrous as he successful, had they joined therein in is known to be will he refuse to obey time. Let me tell you, Charles, that that call? Or is he, who was wont to in the history of all contentions, such be so clear-sighted and so true, one as those that now shake the land, there of those who believe that the pretences is a time when the balance of sincerity of the parliament are true_that they and right is clearly on one side, and seek but to reduce the power of the that it is then true lovers of their crown within due limits, lop the pre- country should step in with their whole rogative of those branches that bore strength to turn the balance of power oppression, and secure the freedom of on that side also. There is such a time the people, yet leave the stability of believe me ; and now is the moment !" the throne ?' Or does he approve of “ Perhaps it is," answered Lord bypocritical pretexts even to gain just Walton, thoughtfully. “I said, my ends ? No, no ! I know him better." friend, that I had hitherto felt the im"Certainly," replied the young no- pressions I described. I did not deny bleman, “ I neither approve the prac- that they are somewhat shaken, pertices, nor believe the pretences of the haps more than I believe.” parliament. But I have hitherto * When that time has come," contrusted, my dear friend, though they tinued the cavalier, without appearing may be now intoxicated with authority, to mark his reply, “it is the duty of the exercise of which is new to them, every man to ask himself, on which and in their pride may encroach upon side is now the right? on which side both the prerogative of the crown and is now the danger ? and, casting away the liberty of the subject--for I can the memory of old faults and old conceive a parliament to become a more grievances, to choose boldly and conterrible tyrant than even a monarch- scientiously between the two. If he yet I say I have trusted that the wiser chooses well, it will be easy for him at and the better members of that body any after time to guard against a rewill recover from the drunkenness that newal of errors on the part of those some have felt, and the fears that have whom he supports; but if from any affected others; and that at all events, fear of such a renewal he turns to the if any dangerous and outrageous exer- side which he knows to be acting amiss, cise of power should take place, those he commits himself for ever to the who have never favoured the arbitrary errors he supports, and can never use of the royal prerogative, or the hope to stop their course, or avert licentious exactions of the commons, their consequences. What I ask you

[ocr errors]

then to do is, to choose! I say not, mising of love for one whom I have join the king : I say not, oppose the only known an hour, such as one-half parliament: I merely say, lay your of our gay courtiers would make, I hand upon your heart, forgetting mis- promise you, that whatever befalls takes that are past, ask yourself, which you, so long as life and strength last, is now right, and which is now wrong? my next thought, after my duty to God and choose as your conscience shall and my sovereign, shall be to care direct."

for the protection and safety of my Lord Walton paused for a few mo- friend's sister." ments in deep thought; then giving Lord Walton smiled, with a look in his hand to his friend, he said, “I will! which pleasure and grief were strangely Ask me no more at present, Francis ; blended, but he replied nothing, merely nor inquire whether, when I say, I will, once more pressing Clare's hand. I might not say, I have. Resolutions

Why do you smile, Charles?" such as these had better be spoken of asked the cavalier.

« Is it that you as little as possible till they can be exe- think me too young, too light, too cuted. Stay till to-morrow morning : gay, to take such a task upon myself

. then back to the king ; your further My honour, my regard, you do not presence here might be dangerous to doubt, I know, and as for the rest, yourself and hurtful to your cause. these are days when the old times of And now to other things : how long chivalry must revive, or the sun will had you

been here before I came ?" set in darkness indeed ; and in those “ Long enough to find it a danger- ancient periods men young as I am ous abode, good friend,” replied the have, with a holy devotion, been the cavalier. « In truth, Walton, if you safeguards and protectors of dames have not got an angel here, you have well nigh as fair and bright as this

, what is more like one than any thing if we may believe the tales we read." my eyes have yet seen.”

" But those tales still ended in a mar« Oh! I know your gallant speeches," riage, Francis," said Lord Walton. answered Charles Walton, with a os Well there let it!” cried the cavalaugh, his face losing the grave cast lier, gaily. “ Here I dedicate my heart which was habitual to it, and bright- and sword to her. Those bright eyes ening with cheerful light; “but Annie shall be my loadstars on the road to is well accustomed to hear sweet glory, her smile give double vigour to things, and I fear not the effect of my arm, and fresh sharpness to my any high-flown southern compliments lance. There, Walton, is not that the on her little heart, which, however true Orlando? But seriously, what gentle, is firm enough to stand a longer meant your somewhat rueful smile siege than any you will have time to just now? Was it that you thought give it. But," he added, while his

the gay youth of former days but little brow grew sad again, “I will own to fit to supply a brother's place in time you, Francis, it is her future fate that of need; or, perhaps, still less, to take in these troublous times half makes a husband's duties on him, if fate and a coward of me; and, though know- circumstances should draw your sister's ing what is right, that will I do; yet heart towards him? But let me tell there is a hesitating fear within me, you, Charles, these are times that make that in the course I am destined to

even the thoughtless think ; and when pursue,

I may bring down sorrow and I buckled me to the cause I serve, I misfortune upon that bright, kind cast away and left in foreign lands all being, who has been ever my sunshine but the higher purposes of the heart." and my hope.”

“ No, no, Francis,” replied Lord I can feel that it must be so, Walton, interrupting him; “it was Charles," replied his friend, gravely: neither doubt, nor fear, nor mockery, “ Had I a sister such as that, it would that made me smile. You do not supbe so with me. Therein I can do pose that, did I not know and see all little to console, and perhaps less to that is noble and generous in your counsel or to help you.

But yet,

nature, and bright and keen in your Charles Walton, you know I am some- mind, I would have taken you to thing of the ancient knight: my my

heart as I have done. That there sword and heart for my king and my might be some weeds in the garden I fair lady; and without any rash pro- will not deny; but they were only such


as an hour's labour would pluck out as some passing cloud of thought swept with ease, or such as would wither over them; but the young lord, whose away under the first hot sun, and leave power over himself was great, kept the flowers and fruit behind uninjured. the same even tenor, not gay, for such I smiled but to think that some five was not his disposition ; not gloomy or years ago, when we were both in hap- meditative, for he did not choose to be pier days than these, I often thought so, but calm and easy, conversing withthat I would gladly give my Annie to out apparent effort on a thousand my early friend, but little dreamed varied things, and never for an instant that times might come when he himself showing the least absence or forgetwould offer, ere he had seen her twice, fulness. Yet, perhaps, all felt that to be her defender and protector in there were dangers and disasters abroad case of her brother's death : and who on every side, though they sat there shall say, Francis, how soon such loss as a cheerful party, with the windows may call for such support. But of the heart closed against the storm here she comes again ; let us say no that raged without. more of this ; but, thank you, thank There was but one moment, when a you from my heart for all you promise. shadow seemed to fall upon all, and that I know right well that promise will too was after a song. Charles Walton be kept, if it cost your last drop of had asked his sister to sing before blood.

they parted for the night ; and after The faces of both gentlemen were some thought, seeking in vain for a grave when Annie Walton joined them, livelier strain,she chose-perhaps from and on hers too there were traces of the irrepressible anxieties of her own some tears. “ Poor Arrah Neil !” she heart-a little ballad, which had been said; “hers indeed has been a hard a favourite of her mother's. fate. She has made me weep with the tale of the old man's sufferings, so mildly and so sweetly did she tell it. But I could obtain no further infor- Hope sung a song of future years, mation in regard to the danger she Replete with sunny hours ; apprehended might befall you, Charles; When present sorrow's dew-like tears and I cannot but think that her words

Should all be hid in flowers. were spoken in one of those strange, dreamy moods, that sometimes fall

“But Memory backward turned her upon her.”


And taught the heart to fear “I think so too,” answered Lord

More stormy clouds, more angry skies, Walton; “-at least it may be so. With each succeeding year. Where have you lodged her, Annie ?"

“She is with good Dame Rachael “But still Hope sung, as by that voice now," answered his sister; “but for Such warnings sad were given, to-night, she is to have the little room In louder strains bade youth rejoice, near the west tower, and tomorrow And age look on to heaven." you must tell me more of your plans for her, Charles."

Each kept silence for a minute or " I will, I will,” replied Lord Wal- two after the song was done, and each ton," —to-morrow;- Ay to-morrow," gave a sigh; but then the cavalier and be fell into thought.

would fain have persuaded Miss Walton The evening passed more cheerfully to sing again, for her voice was one of than the conversation of the morning those, full of native music, which the promised. All seemed anxious to ear longs for when once heard, as the snatch a few hours from the gloomy weary heart of manhood thirsts to taste thoughts that hung over the times, again the fearless joys of infancy. But and but few allusions were made to she declined, saying she was somewhat the circumstances of the day ; but any weary, and shortly after the little other subject, which minds full of rich party separated for the night. stores could produce, was chosen, as Charles Walton shook his friend's if to exclude more sombre topics. hand warmly as they parted, at a yet From time to time, indeed, both Annie early hour, and adding to the good Walton and their new companion would night, “we will speak more before you ora moment or two look grave and sad, go to-morrow," he himself retired to

his chamber to pass several hours in meditation ere he lay down to rest.

As soon as he was alone the young lord sent away a servant who was waiting for him, and then leaned his head

| upon his hand for some ten minutes without moving. At length he raised his eyes to a heavy sword that hung above the old carved mantel-piece, rose, took it down, drew it from the sheath, and gazed upon the blade. There were some dents and notches in the edge ; and saying in a low tune, “ it has done good service it may do more," he thrust it back again, and hung it up as before. “I will go to my cabinet and write two lines to the king," he added, after a short pause; but then, again he stopped, and meditated, murmuring, “no, it were better not to write; such documents are dangerous. I will send a message. I see they suspect me already. It were as well to destroy the commission and those other papers--and, if at all, at once.--I will do it now. - What is the matter ?" he continued, as some one knocked at the door.

“ Charles, Charles," cried his sister, coming into the room ; and as he sprang to meet her, he saw her face was very pale.

“ There is a terrible smoke," she ex. claimed,“anda rushing sound like fire."

“Where, where?" asked her brother, eagerly hurrying towards the door.

« In the corridor, beyond my room," answered Annie, “ towards the west wing. Oh, bid themring the alarm-bell.

« On no account! on no accountl" cried her brother, darting out. “ Call all the servants, Annie. Run, Alice," he continued to one of his sister's maids, who had followed her pale and trembling, “send Hugh and Roger hither, and then call the rest. Smoke, indeed! There is fire somewhere ! Quick, girl, quick!

Go back, my Annie, and dress yourself again. I will soon tell you more.” And thus saying, he hurried on through the wide gallery, upon which the door of his bed-room opened, and then along the corridor beyond.

The smoke grew thicker at each step he took, the crackling and rushing sound of fire soon became audible, and then a fitful flash broke across the obscurity, like that of a signal gun seen through a heavy mist.

In a minute he was at a large door

which closed the end of the corridor, and through the neighbouring window he could see the projection of one of the flanking towers with a small loop. hole showing a red glare within.

“. Here is the fire,” he cried_" in my own cabinet ! How can this have happened ?" and he laid his hand upon the latch. The door was locked. He tried to turn the key, but it was embarrassed. “ Bring me an axe," he exclaimed, hearing some of the servants following him rapidly. “ Bring me an axe directly !-quick, quick ! all the papers will be burned," and again he tried to turn the key.

• The charter chests were removed, my lord, to the next room," said the good servant Langan. “I moved them myself by your own order just before we went, that the floor might be repaired."

The young lord laid his hand upon his brow for an instant, and then said

“ Let the rest perish then !- It is no matter ;” and just as he spoke the alarm-bell rang

loud and long. " What fool has done that?" exclaimed Charles Walton. « Ah! Francis, is that you?" he continued, speaking to Sir Francis Clare, who was up and following him fully dressed, “ in your ear : mount your horse quick and be gone,” he whispered. “We shall have all the country on us in half an hour. See, there are some twenty on the terrace already. Langan, herego the round with this gentleman to the stables by the back-way, then through the wood with him till he is beyond the grounds. Francis, say

I am determined !” he added again, lowering his voice. "6 You shall see Away, away, good friend ! you know not the people here."

By this time servants were hurrying up with buckets of water and with axes to break down the door ; but before he suffered that to be done, Lord Walton turned to one of those behind saying, See to poor Arrah Neil; she is in the chamber just beneath us. Take her to your lady's room. Now, Roger, you and Dick move out the chests from the place where Langan says he put them. Take them down to the terrace; but set some one to watch them. Hark! there is something fallen within."

The great case of books, my lord, by the sound," said one of the men.

-a word

me soon.

“ Now give me an axe,” cried the below; there is but a narrow gallery young nobleman, and with a few blows above, and if you can but break up hę dashed the lock off the door, and the corridor pushed it open, bidding the men throw “ I see! I see!" cried Lord Walton, in the water as he did so.

“ Thanks, sir, thanks. Run, Hugh, Out burst the flames and smoke, to the armoury; you will find some however, with such fury that all were powder there. forced to run back; and as it somewhat “ I beg, sir, that I may be permitted cleared away, the frightful scene of de- to make the saucisson,cried a tall struction that the interior of the tower man in flaunting apparel. “ At the displayed, too plainly showed there famous siege of Rochelle I constructed was no possibility left of saving that the immense petard wherewith we part of the building. “ Now, my blew up thegood men,” cried the young lord, “ let " I thank you, sir," replied the as many as can find buckets keep pour- master of the mansion, looking at the ing on the water. The rest help me person who addressed him from head to cut away the woodwork between the to foot with a quick but marking gaze, tower and the rest. Some run up to “ I will make it myself;" and without the corridor above, break down the farther notice he proceeded to give panelling, and throw it back away the necessary orders, and to take prefrom the flames. Fear not, but at all cautions both to insure the safety of risks cut off the tower from the rest all persons near, and to guard the of the house. Call some of those men building as much as possible from daup from below. Why do they stand mage by the explosion. idle there?”

When all was ready he went into the The scene of hurry and confusion house to bring his sister forth, lest by that succeeded can be imagined by any chance the rooms in which she had those who have witnessed the con. hitherto remained should be shaken sternation produced by a fire in a rural more than he expected; and then, district, where few of those means and after having placed her at a distance, appliances which in great towns exist he himself fired the train, which being in plenty, but often are found inef. unconfined, except at one part, carlectual even there, are not to be met ried the flame in an instant to the bag with at all. To prevent the flames of powder, causing it to explode with a from extending to the rest of that tremendous roar. A quantity of brickwing was found impossible, notwith- work was thrown into the air ; the standing all the efforts of the noble gallery above fell in the moment after ; master of the mansion, and the stre- and then, after a short pause, a tall, nuous exertions of his servants, who neighbouring tower between the place speedily recovered from the first con- where the powder had taken effect, fusion of surprise, and recollected the and that where the fire was raging, old military habits which they had bulged out about half way up, and acquired in former days. The te. then rushed down, strewing the ternantry too, who flocked up at the race with a mass of broken ruins. sound of the alarm-bell, gave eager In the anxiety and excitement of the but not very efficient help as well as a moment Lord Walton had observed number of the townsfolk ; but still the little but what was passing immedifire gained ground, extended from the ately before him; but as he marked tower to the rooms in the wing, ran the effect and was turning round to along the cornices, caught the beams, look for his sister, and tell her that and threatened the whole building with the rest of the mansion was saved, the destruction, when a tall, grave stranger stranger in black who had spoken to in a black cloak and hat walked calmly him before, once more addressed him up to Lord Walton, who had come in a low voice sayingdown to the terrace to give directions “ You had better look to those chests, to the people below, and said in a low my lord; Colonel Thistleton is eyeing tone

them somewhat curiously. As for me, "A few pounds of gunpowder, my I will wish you good night; I love not lord, and a linen bag laid above that the neighbourhood of parliamentary doorway, and under the coping-stone, commissioners; but if you want good will separate the fire from the build- help at need, which perhaps may be ing. The stone passage cuts it off the case soon, you have only to send

« PreviousContinue »