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Sir Thomas blejseth his Son. 317
He kneels at his father's feet for a blessing. A faint smile lighteth up the manly tender face of the old man, but he is motionless. His wife, now raising his hands, placeth them on the head of their son—their only son! The woman hid her face, weeping. No stranger could have heard the words in which the parent blessed his child. Twas a Patriarch's blessing—such as yourself may have had:—" God be gracious unto thee, my Son!"
And the wind began to blow fitfully through the groves, and about the gables and battlements of Chenies; and a cold sleet pattered against the windows, as William, followed by 'Zekiel and Davy, rapidly rode across the Park, taking the nearest way to London.
And Dame Elizabeth, with some help, brought Sir Thomas to the fire, in his own closet, behind the Armoury. Now the embers were fading, so she raked them; and a nearly consumed brand lying across the Dogges, flie eked with little half-charred pieces, fanning them with her apron, watching her husband at times. And anon there was a sheen light in the room, and the Knight gat warmer, and could move his limbs a little—a very little.
He sat in his old chair, gazing at the fire, his hands
resting on his knees. His visage was very awed and sad, the skin drawn tight, as it were, and the eye dim; his mouth compressed, his brow contract. After a while, motioning that he would be alone with his God, the dear wife kissing him reverently and with full affection, he presseth her to his loving heart. It was a long, a soft, a true embrace.
So Dame Elizabeth left her husband, closing the door quietly behind her. And she spake to the household, desiring them to be still, nor let any enter to disturb Sir Thomas.
Then, putting on her cloak and muffler, and settling her mask, she took her gentlewoman and a little foot-page, and so set off for even-song. Coming to old Chenies Church, she spake with Parson Homily in the Vestry; and, at the proper time, the Vicar standing at his desk, cried, "Your prayers are desired for one who 'th whilolm knelt here, now under her Majesty's displeasure." And so they interceded, all of them kneeling humbly. They knew, somehow, that 'twas of the young Earl the good Clerk spake.
And, service being over, the candles on the Altar were left alight: and a passing-bell was ordered, that it should
The Passing Bell. 319
toll throughout the night and until morning prayer, that so they who were charitably disposed might be warned to ask the merciful God, Creator of all men, to spare that life he had to a good end given.—Yet a little while until he shall have gained strength to depart. And there were some who prayed that the Searcher of all hearts would put it to the Queen to be piteous and forgiving to him whom she had once so delighted to honour. And these words might be heard ever and anon: " Hear, O God! the sorrowful sighing of the prisoner; and comfort all those who are in sorrow and dismay."
And the pious lady stayed there at the rails, in the chancel, cast upon the ground, weeping and praying.
Now at the Hall the light flickered and the fplanks crackled on the hearth. And a little flurried Ruddock, who was wont to be fed by Sir Thomas, would bob against the glass as willing to come in: and, the passing-bell then tolling, the Knight began to remember himself somewhat. So he groped his way to a secret niche, where was set up a prayer-table for his daily private use; and, hardly coming thither, he kneeled down reverently, clasping his hands and resting his head thereon, breathing out his spirit quietly. And presently his beard had drooped upon his breast, for his mind was overwrought and his sense decayed.
And it seemed to him that that young man, in whose life he had rejoiced, stood beside him, and that there were now about him in the Great Hall, or some such place, all those whom he had known and loved thoro' his long and kindly life: and he heard sweet sounds, as of familiar voices talking with him, and there was a sense of peace within the old man's heart, and his spirit was delighted.
The wind hurtled among the chimney-tops, and heavy gusts now and again whirred through the corridor and lobbies, making the very house. And the little bird bobbed again, but feebly, 'gainst the window. And the sleet was trickling down the lattice, and bubbling in the soft lead joints. There was a sound as of a door slamming below, and of a pike or such falling in the Armoury, and then a casement above burst open. And now a little pause. Then did the brand on the Dogges fall among the ashes, smothering itself on the hearth. Sir Thomas Cheney noted not these things, neither did he hear the passing-bell, then tolling solemnly.
And towards nine o' the clock Dame Elizabeth rose,
Chenies that Night. 321
. bowing to the altar as was her use. And she crossed her arms over her bosom, saying, " Thy will be done, O Lord!"
Then she wended homeward by a solitary path; a little scattered light directing her. The shade of the scared rook winged past: all else had sunk to rest. And now, as she nears the house, flitteth dismally through the turrets a large night-owl. Once or twice he shrieked wildly: then with a long-drawn whoop fled over the roof.
It was nigh supper-time in Chenies Hall. The flags and banners were trembling mournfully in the cold draught: the armour on the wall and on the brackets looked dim and tarnished in the damp air, and the shields themselves seemed like funeral escocheons, so heavy was the grief that hung on Chenies.
It was nigh supper-time: yet all was silent there.