Dorothy Forster, by Walter Besant

Chapter ii.

The Forsters.

There are in Northumberland (one may thank Heaven for it) as many Forsters as there are Fenwicks, and more. First, it hath been said, but irreverently, the Lord made Adam and Eve; and then He made the Forsters. They are, indeed, as ancient a family as any in the county; as ancient in the county as the Percys, who belong also to Sussex, and are now swallowed up by the Seymours; or the Radcliffes, who came from Cumberland. The ancient and original seat of the Forsters from time immemorial has been at Etherston, which is, being interpreted, the Adder Stone. An old ring of the family, now in possession of my brother, John Forster, Esquire, of Etherston, commemorates the origin of the name, being shaped like unto a twisted viper with his tail in his mouth, and set with a precious stone. There is a snake or dragon connected with many old and illustrious families: for instance, there is the loathly worm of Spindleston; there is the dragon of the Lambtons of Durham; there is the Conyers’ dragon; there is a Sussex dragon; and the princely House of Lusignan, I am told by Mr. Hilyard, is descended from Melusine, a witch, or sorceress, who was half-woman, half-serpent. The legend of the Forsters’ adder is lost. Mr. Hilyard once made a ballad or song about it, but so full of knights, shepherds, nymphs, and cool grots (of which there are not many in our part of the county), that I thought it fantastical, although ingenious. The shield of the Forsters is —— argent: a chevron vert between three bugle-horns stringed gules, and for crest a bent arm and a hand bearing a broken lance. The Etherston quartering is also argent: on a bend cottised sable three martlets. The motto is ‘Si fractus fortis;’ but, like the Fenwicks, we have our family legend, namely:

‘Let us dearlie then holde

    To mynde ther worthines

That which our parents olde

    Hath left us to posses.’

There are branches of the Forsters everywhere: at Stokesley in Yorkshire, at Durham (where they are called the ‘Friendly Forsters’), at Tuggall Hall, at Aldermarston, at Berwick, in Jamaica (descended, I believe, from Claudius, nephew of Sir Claudius Forster, and my great-great-uncle), in London, and I know not where else. With these branches we have nothing here to do, save to mention them with respect as flourishing offshoots of a brave old stock. Especially, however, to be considered is the noble branch of Bamborough, founded by Sir John Forster, the valiant and trusty Warden of the March, under good Queen Elizabeth, for twenty-seven years, and Governor of Bamborough Castle. It was to his son, Sir Claudius, that King James made a grant of the castle and manor. This made him a man of greater importance than his first cousin, Mr. Forster, of Etherston. Yet it is a proud thing to be the Head of the House, which will ever be the happiness of the Forster who holds Etherston.

The Forsters have always been, like most Northumbrian families, blessed with numerous progeny. One of them had twenty-one sons and a daughter; being unsurpassed in this respect, even in Northumberland, except by Sir William Swinburne’s father, who, to be sure, had thirty children. How great a happiness to bring up so many valiant sons to fight England’s enemies and maintain the glory of the country! By marriage, especially before the Reformation, into which many noble Houses of the north would never enter, the Forsters were connected with nearly every family of gentle birth in the north; videlicet, Lords Crewe, Wharton, Hilton, and Ogle; the Radcliffes, Shaftoes, Swinburnes, Chaytors, Selbys, Herons, Carnabys, Crasters, Ridleys, Fenwicks, Salkelds, Grays of Chillingham and of Howick; the Coles of Brancepeth, and the Ordes. By marriage with a Radcliffe, the Forsters of Bamborough acquired the Manor of Blanchland; and by marriage with a Selby, that of Thornton. One of the Forsters was Lord Chief Justice of England, another was a Puisne Judge; many of them were Sheriffs and Knights of the Shire. Their history is, in a word, part and parcel of the history of Northumberland itself; that is to say, of the great and glorious realm of England.

This book is written for no other purpose than to set forth the true character of a gallant and honourable gentleman which hath been of late defamed; and especially by one who hath eaten his bread, drunk his wine, and received many favours at his hands. The name of this gentleman is Thomas Forster, generally called the Younger. It was he who commanded the Prince’s English forces during the unhappy Rebellion. The hand which writes his history is that of his sister. I am, it is true, unpractised in the penman’s art, therefore unskilled in the trick of making the false appear the true. Yet I can narrate faithfully the things which happened; I can show hypocrites and villains, stripped of their disguise, the horrid wretches which they are; and I can tell how gallant gentlemen and loyal subjects of the lawful sovereign of these realms (whom may God restore!) were betrayed to their own undoing.

No one should be able to speak of a man so well as his sister. As for his wife, she knows him only when he has arrived at manhood, and has no knowledge of the time when he was a stripling, inexperienced and ignorant, though perhaps full of brave intentions, or a boy at school under ferule and discipline, or a curly-headed laughing child. The sister remembers the growth of her brother’s mind; she has watched (if she be an elder sister) the hesitations of the boy, his first doubtful flights, seeming, like the needle when the compass is shaken, to incline now here, now there, until it settles towards a steady north, as towards the straight and narrow path of honour which leadeth to heaven. To a wife, a man presents himself completed, at his best; like a finished work, a picture framed, a poem written and printed. As for myself, it is true that I remember not my brother Tom as a child, because he was older than myself; but I knew him as a young man while he wore his own hair still tied up by a ribbon, and went about dressed in grey sagathy and woolen stockings, and great thick shoes for weekday use; with broadcloth and silver buttons, thread stockings, and silver buckles in his shoes, and a silk ribbon for his hair, on Sundays and holydays. A brave and gallant lad he was, better at hunting than at reading, fonder of sport than of books, hearty with all, ready with a laugh and a friendly word with rich and poor; and gifted with a natural love for friendliness, companionship, and good-fellowship, which made him beloved of all. He is dead now, and his fortunes broken and gone, and his enemies may say, as in the Otterbourne Ballad:

‘Now we have carry’d all Bambroughshire,

    All the welthe in the world have we.’

Many have drawn comparisons between Mr. Forster and his gallant companion-in-arms, Lord Derwentwater, to the disadvantage of the former. It hath never been my pretence or opinion that my brother was possessed of a nature so strangely and so richly compounded as that of Lord Derwentwater. He, it must be owned, drew all hearts by qualities as rare as they are admirable. But I make bold to maintain that if loyalty, fidelity, and courage may command respect, then we must give respect to the memory of Mr. Thomas Forster. These virtues were conspicuous in him, as in all his line. Like a river in a champagne country which runs evenly between its banks, so is the race of Forsters; like the river Coquet, which is now deep, now shallow, now gliding through open fields, now running under rocks, now under high hanging woods, is the race of the Radcliffes: and, like that river, they are most beautiful just before the end.

The father of this Thomas Forster was Thomas Forster, commonly called the Elder, of Etherston. He remained a private gentleman, taking no office until after the death of his cousins of Bamborough. Then he became Sheriff of the County and, between the years 1706 and 1710, Knight of the Shire. In the House of Commons he made no greater figure than a gentleman of Tory and High Church principles generally desires to make. Thus he was never a prater, nor did he waste the time of the House with idle talk and argument, being always well advised beforehand which side was the right, whose arguments would be the better, and prepared to vote, when called upon, with his friends. He, therefore, acquired the respect which Parliament is always ready to accord to members who sit silent and vote with their party. It would, indeed, have pleased him best could the measures have been brought forward silently, and voted without any speeches at all. ‘It was a poor reward,’ he said, ‘for the fatigue of a journey from Etherston to Newcastle, and from Newcastle to town, to sit out a long and tedious debate, when one’s mind was already made up, and argument can produce no more effect than swanshot on the back of a tortoise.’ He married, while in his twenty-first year, his second cousin Frances, daughter of Sir William Forster of Bamborough. By her he had issue, namely, Thomas Forster, aforesaid; John, who is now the possessor of Etherston; Margaret, the eldest of the family, married to Sir William Bacon, of Staward; Elizabeth and William, who both died young; and myself, Dorothy. It was the misfortune of these children that their mother, who was as virtuous and prudent as she was beautiful, died while they were all of tender years, and I, for one, but a little lassie indeed, too young to feel the blow which had fallen upon us, and too ignorant to join in the resentment which filled the breasts of my elders when my father, forgetting the incomparable virtues of the wife he had buried, married a second time. This marriage lasted but a short while, ending most tragically in the shooting by accident of madam. Would not one think that any man would plainly see in the death of two wives the direct injunction of Heaven to wed no more? Yet my father tempted Providence and married a third time, his wife being now a certain Barbara Lawes, from the South Country, whose birth was not such as to warrant this elevation, and who understood not the Northumberland people, or their speech, or their ways. She brought her husband two children, Ralph, who lived to be thirty years of age, and Mary, now married respectably to Mr. Proctor.

As to my father, he was the easiest and kindest of men; all he asked for in the world was rest and a quiet life; to this he was surely entitled by reason of his birth, his fortune, and his good health. His fortune was moderate: an estate of some few hundreds a year, and a house as good as any, except the great castles, in the county. Etherston Hall is a mile or so from the little hamlet of Lucker, and four miles from Bamborough. It is a large, square house, as full of modern conveniences as any gentleman may desire; the sitting-rooms are wainscoted with walnut-wood; it has sashwindows, glazed with crown glass, which make the rooms light and pleasant in all weathers; there are stoves to burn a coal fire, as well as andirons for wood; in the parlour there is a high-backed chair for madam, and a great oaken settle, for my father loved the wooden seat of the North Country, with its cupboard below, in which were kept all kinds of stores; there is a shelf of books if any want to read; there are still-room and dairy; and there is a great cellar well stocked with ale, both small and October —— wine, both French, Spanish, and home-made —— and whisky, brandy, and Geneva. Outside there is a stately garden full of fruit-trees, and planted with every kind of flower, fruit, and herb; and to screen the house from the cold north and east winds there is a thick plantation, call it rather a small wood or coppice, containing all the trees that afford thick foliage and shelter, as firs and pines with wych-elm, sycamore, ash, rowan, and so forth. ‘Why,’ my father would say, looking round him, ‘there is no better house in all Northumberland for the entertainment of one’s friends; nor, upon my word, doth a pipe of tobacco anywhere taste so well, whether it be on the settle by the fire, or in the garden beneath a tree. Go fetch me one, Dorothy, my girl.’ Seeing how much he loved to be at home, it may be thought surprising that he should have endured so long the fatigue of Parliament, the discomforts to a country gentleman of living in London, and the burden of the long journey to town and back again. Yet a gentleman must not shrink from the duties imposed upon him by his position, and when it became necessary for him to become Knight of the Shire, he accepted the office with courage.

I have no cause for repentance as regards the fifth commandment, and am easy in my conscience concerning my duty to my father. The fifth commandment, although it hath been held by some to enjoin submission to all one’s superiors in rank, fortune, place, affinity, or age, yet surely was never intended to include stepmothers. If it was, Heaven forgive the Forsters, for they have greatly sinned. Still, without seeking, like Adam in that pitiful excuse of his, to shift the blame upon another, it is not unjust to say that the beginnings of the quarrels were generally made by madam, who desired to rule her stepchildren, now growing tall and beyond her control, as if they were still little ones, and her own. My sister Margaret, the eldest, a girl of uncommon spirit, was quite able to hold her own. Perhaps madam was wrong when she charged her with inciting the younger ones to disobedience; but I am sure that Tom was right when he, grown too big to be beaten, even by his father, stood between madam and his little sister Dorothy, swearing that he would not let madam lay finger upon her, whether she deserved it or not. Let her go beat her own children as much as she pleased.

‘Dame,’ cried her husband, when madam complained, ‘must I for ever be going about with a whip in my hand, like an overseer in a negro plantation? Do you let the children alone, and they will let you alone.’

Then would she sit glum in a corner till I went humbly to ask pardon, and all for a time would go well again; and over a pipe of tobacco and a pot of October, my father would talk with Tom about his horses and his hounds. When my sister Margaret married and went away, the household became more peaceful. Between Tom and myself —— I being a child, and he a lad who was always ready to promise anything, besides that he regarded his younger sister with singular affection —— it was presently arranged and understood that when we grew up we would live together away from Etherston Hall, and quite apart from madam. The compact was made long before it seemed likely that it would ever be carried out; but then, who knows the decrees of Fate? Nothing, says Mr. Hilyard, according to the French proverb, is more certain than the unforeseen.

‘We will live together,’ said Tom. ‘Cheer up, Dorothy. We will go and live together somewhere as soon as I come of age to do what I please. Then madam will have no one to flout but Jack —— poor Jack!’

It is sad to remember the quarrels which occurred daily between these jealous children and their stepmother. She would rush into my father’s presence loud in complaint, scolding like a madwoman, though perhaps it was but a mere trifle, calling loudly for rods and whippings, lamenting the day that ever she came into a house where the children were so disobedient, upbraiding her husband for his lack of severity, and calling on the precepts of Solomon, who is nowhere so clear as on this point of punishing children. (Yet Rehoboam, who was, no doubt, very soundly flogged, did not turn out such a son as the wisest of men and fathers could regard with pride.) On the other side stood Tom with Dorothy; she hanging her head and holding her brother by the hand; he angry, flushed, with fiery eyes, meeting accusation with denial or with charges of his own. When the angry wife flung out of the room, the poor father would turn a perplexed face to his children.

‘It is hard,’ he would say, ‘that a man cannot come home and hang up his wig and find peace without quarrels and fault-findings. Tom, you villain, why anger madam? Dorothy, child, go ask pardon for both, and then sit down and let us be happy.’

Peace was attained presently, when, in a happy day, Mr. Hilyard came to the house. No one, before his arrival, understood how to treat the fancies of a whimsical woman, to humour her prejudices, and to keep her in good temper. Of Mr. Hilyard, more presently. For the moment, sufficient to note that my father soon learned to trust in him for the maintenance of an unclouded sky at home; my stepmother looked to him for such personal services and attentions as were necessary to keep her in good temper; my brother Tom, for such money (to be begged of my father) as he wanted for his personal pleasure; Jack, for mediation in order to save him from punishment; and I myself, for amusement and instruction, combined with the fingering of the spinet, of which I was always fond, and over which I attained, thanks to Mr. Hilyard, a proficiency (I may fairly say) equalled by few. There was never, sure, such a tutor in any family as Mr. Antony Hilyard.

By my mother’s side we came from the Bamborough Forsters —— a branch of the family more distinguished in the world than the main stock, and remarkable for the gifts of politeness and love of learning. Madam Frances Forster was the elder daughter of Sir William Forster, of Bamborough and Blanchland, by Dorothy Selby, his wife, daughter of Sir William Selby, and granddaughter of Ferdinando, Lord Fairfax. There were nine children of this marriage, viz., William, the eldest, who married his second cousin, Elizabeth Pert Forster, but died in 1698 without issue (she afterwards married Lord Stawell, and enjoyed a charge of £350 a year upon the estate); John, the second son, who died unmarried in 1699, aged thirty-one years; Ferdinando, of whom more immediately; Frances, my mother; and Dorothy, the youngest, whose birth caused the death of her mother.

This Dorothy, my aunt, grew up a most incomparable beauty, the equal of whom was not to be seen anywhere in the county. In those days, and until the death of Ferdinando, there was open house kept at Bamborough, with so much company and such prodigality and lavishing of good things as no other house in the county could show. It was ever a distinction between the Forsters of Etherston and those of Bamborough, that the former were quiet gentlemen, lovers of home, and not profuse of expenditure; while the latter were large-handed, hospitable, and never so happy as when they were spending money with open hands and both hands. True, they had a great estate; but there is no estate, not even his who owns Potosi or Golconda, but requires care in the spending. Sir William first, and his sons afterwards, lived as freely as if they had an endless revenue. They were not spendthrifts, nor did they throw money away in riotous living, like him who was reduced to feed with the pigs; but they lived at a great rate: their house was always open for anyone who chose; their stables were full of horses; their cellars full of wine; their rooms full of company; grooms and varlets in plenty lived upon them; they even went to London. Madam, I remember, was for ever wondering how the Bamborough people could afford, even with their means, this great expense, and looking forward to a sudden end. But she was one of those women who rejoice to play the part of the Trojan Princess, constantly foretell disaster, concern themselves continually with the affairs of other people, and are never so well pleased as when they have some fresh misfortune to discuss, or some certain calamity to predict.

To the beautiful Dorothy the coming and going of fresh company meant the arrival and dismissal of so many lovers, for all men fell in love with her at first sight. Those who were too old lamented their youth; those who were married wished they were single for her sake; those who were rich trusted in their acres; those who were poor hoped she would accept their poverty. In a word, they all with one consent began to ask her in marriage before she was seventeen years of age. But she would have none of them; not from pride, nor from a desire to make a great match (because, being a Forster, she knew that she could marry no one better than a plain Northumberland gentleman), but because she was young and happy, contented to wait single for a while, and because of all the lovers there was none who touched her heart.

‘My dear,’ she said to me once, long afterwards, ‘a maid so young is simple, and expects more than she can get; this man is too tall, that man too short, another too fat, another is boorish, another drinks too much wine, another has a hasty temper —— as if she must needs have a man made on purpose for her. The gentlemen pleased me well enough to converse with, though sometimes they were coarse in their talk (a thing which gentlewomen cannot too strongly reprehend); but I liked not the prospect of spending my whole life with any one of them all. I desired, in short, more than a plain gentleman can be expected to give. Heaven granted my desire, save for one small particular, which, perhaps, I forgot to pray for, or I might have had that as well. My husband, most admirable in all other respects, had lost, when I married him, what many young women would prize the most —— his youth. Yet he hath given me a great place and high rank, with learning and piety even beyond what may be looked for, even in a bishop; wisdom more than one expects, even in the House of Peers; and, my dear, unfailing love and consideration for woman’s weakness, which is as rare as it is delightful.’ And with that her beautiful eyes filled with tears —— but not of sorrow.

For there came to Alnwick when she was staying in their house in that town, being then but just eighteen, the great Bishop of Durham, Lord Crewe, upon a confirmation. Perhaps, but I am not sure, she was herself confirmed by him on that occasion. He was then fifty-six years of age, and, though there is so great a disparity between fifty-six and eighteen, and between a grave bishop and a giddy maiden, his lordship fell in love like any young country squire with Dorothy, and proposed to marry her. To me it seems a truly awful thing to marry a bishop of the English Church, and I am not surprised that Dorothy refused him. Being still in her youth, she was naturally inclined to gaiety, mirth, laughter, dancing, and the company of the young, which is a quite sufficient reason for her refusal, and we need seek no farther. Yet it was a great match, for he was not only Bishop of Durham (that is, a Prince Palatine, with power to appoint his own sheriffs, and almost sovereign in his own diocese), but he was also a great statesman (he had made many enemies in his political career), and, besides this, a peer of the realm by birth and succession, the only member of his sacred profession who could boast of that distinction.

When his lordship found that his suit did not prevail he went away, and presently married a widow —— Penelope, the relict of Sir Hugh Tynte. But when, ten years later, she died, he found that he still remembered the beautiful Dorothy —— probably he had never forgotten her —— and he again offered her his hand and title.

‘Child,’ she told me, ‘when one arrives at twenty-eight, the pleasures of youth have all been tasted. I had been to London, and seen the glories of the park, the theatre, the gaming-table, and the town of London. Nothing is solid, I had already learned, except the joys of rank, dignity, and wealth. When my lord came to me again, he was, it is true, ten years older —— he was sixty-six —— yet I assure you that he bore himself still with the uprightness and strength which most men show at forty, having no shadow of ailment or weakness, or touch of infirmity. I was, therefore, sensible of the great honour he proposed to me when he asked me again to become his wife. My dear, that venerable hand which I presumptuously rejected at eighteen, I accepted with gratitude at eight-and-twenty, and have had no reason since for a single day to regret my decision. Pray Heaven my lord hath continued to regard his marriage with the same feeling of satisfaction!’

Of that, indeed, there could be no doubt, because the Bishop remained to the end an ardent lover.

Such, then, was the family of the Forsters —— a goodly trunk, with many vigorous boughs —— their original seat at Etherston, with many stately houses and broad lands, belonging to the offshoots and younger branches: a House received with the respect due to an equal by all the great Northumbrian families, one which is numbered among those whose origin mounts to the time of the Conqueror or earlier. Their name is not like that of the Fenwicks or the Swinburnes, of territorial origin, but is, perhaps, a corruption of Forester. They were, Mr. Hilyard says, the family who first seized upon the forest, or they were the King’s foresters. In the old times, when they were always fighting, there was need of as many as could be produced, for the men were mostly doomed to early death fighting on the Border, and the women, more to be pitied, doomed to mourn for husbands, sons, and brothers. So that to both alike fate was unhappy. But that time has passed away. There is peace upon the Marches; and if wicked men stir not up the waters of strife, it is a time for sitting every man by his own fireside, his wig hung upon one peg, and his sword upon another, his helmet placed beside his forefathers’ monuments in the church, above the old coat of mail, a pipe of tobacco in his mouth, a brown tankard of October upon the table, with him a friend or two, and talk grave or cheerful, as the time and mood may suggest, while the sun slopes westward, and the shadows lengthen, and the dark crypt of Bamborough Church draweth nearer every hour.

The way in which Tom Forster, junior, of Etherston, became Tom Forster of Bamborough, was as follows:

On August the 22nd, in the year of grace seventeen hundred and one, Mr. Ferdinando Forster, Member of Parliament, the youngest and only surviving of the three brothers, was entertaining a company of gentlemen to dinner at the Black Horse Tavern in Newcastle. Now, there had been anger (for what reason I know not, and have never heard) for a long time between Mr. Forster and Mr. John Fenwick, of Rock. It has always been maintained Mr. Forster was a gentleman of easy and cheerful disposition, who bore no malice, and was unfriendly to no one; also that he was ready and willing to come to an amicable settlement of their differences, whatever they might be, hating nothing so much as bad blood, and being ready to forgive private injuries so far as his honour would allow. Unfortunately Mr. Fenwick was of an opposite temperament, being choleric, vindictive, and hot-headed. Also, conceiving that he had been wronged, he went about demanding vengeance, and breathing threats whenever he should meet his adversary. Was it not, therefore, a most unfortunate accident that he should be in Newcastle on that same August morning? And what should be said of the mischievous wretch (reported to be mad Jack Hall) who informed this angry man that his enemy was at the Black Horse? Thither he rushed, maddened by his great wrath, and, bursting into the room where Mr. Forster sat with his friends, did assail him with reproaches, insults, curses, and foul names of so outrageous and intolerable a kind that there was nothing for a man of honour to do but (having first called upon his friends to take notice that the quarrel was forced upon him) to rise and follow the aggressor into the open street. At the White Cross they stood, and both drew their swords. Mr. Hall, who had followed Mr. Fenwick, drew his sword as well, with intent to act as second. Just then, before the weapons had crossed, Mr. Forster’s foot slipped, and he fell upon the stones. What followed is dreadful to tell, and shows how rage may make even an honourable gentleman blind and mad. For Mr. Fenwick, without waiting for his adversary to recover, or to be in a position to defend himself, instantly ran him through the heart, so that he fell dead. It has always been said that Mr. Hall should have prevented this cruel murder by striking up Mr. Fenwick’s sword with his won, and there are not wanting those who call him as much a murderer as the unhappy man himself who did the deed. I know not how this may be; but so much is certain, that nothing afterwards ever prospered with Mr. Hall; but he was pursued with continued disaster to the day of his violent and untimely end —— a clear mark of Heaven’s displeasure. They seized Mr. Fenwick red-handed, so to speak, and lodged him in prison. A month later he was led forth and hanged for the murder —— a melancholy and disgraceful end for a gentleman of his birth and fortune.

The intelligence of this terrible crime was brought to Etherston by Mr. Hilyard the next day. He lay at Bamborough that night, and so heard the news among the first. Madam was sitting in the garden with the two boys and Dorothy, Tom being then seventeen and Jack five years younger.

‘Alas!’ she cried, when she heard the news —— the children looking at each other in amazement, not knowing what to say. ‘Alas! sure some great wickedness, boys, must have been committed by your mother’s family. First it is John, then William, and now Ferdinando; all gone in three years. Of nine children there remains but one. Some sins, we are assured, are visited upon the third and fourth generation. Tom, it would become thee to repent, lest it be visited upon thee as well.’

‘When I find out what I am to repent of,’ said Tom sullenly, because he loved not to hear the least reflection upon his mother’s family, ‘I will repent. My mother’s family have brought nothing but honour to us, as far as I know. There is credit in being worth notice. Now, a Lawes might steal a pig and be hanged for it, and his grandchildren never a penny the worse.’

‘With submission, madam,’ Mr. Hilyard interposed hastily, to prevent further words, ‘this crime may lead to your stepson’s singular advantage. For, if Mr. Ferdinando hath left no will, I mistake much if the estates do not devolve upon him, or upon him and Lady Crewe together.’

‘Will Tom have Bamborough?’ madam asked. ‘Then he must not have Etherston as well. That,’ she added, thinking of her own son, not yet born, ‘should be divided among all the other children, however many there may be. The law is unjust as regards the younger sons. No woman would ever be a second wife did she know how her own children would be served.’

‘I doubt not, madam,’ said Mr. Hilyard, ‘that should the occasion arise, his honour will prove as just and as generous as you would desire.’

‘Their father,’ madam replied, tossing her head, ‘would give all to Dorothy had he his own way. When justice is to be done, Mr. Hilyard, come to me about it.’

‘As for me,’ cried Tom, the brave lad, his face suddenly flushing, ‘it will be my business to avenge the death of my uncle. What! The breath only just out of his body, and we are talking of his succession!’

‘Nay,’ said Mr. Hilyard, ‘as for the murderer, he is in prison; they say that he will be tried for his life. Let me advise you rather to keep this melancholy story before your eyes as an example, never to be forgotten, of the danger of ungoverned wrath, which Lactantius calls a cruel tempest of the mind. Thus, as is recorded, began the madness of Ajax.’

They brought the body of Mr. Forster to Bamborough, and buried him in the crypt below the chancel. It was observed that no longer procession had ever been known at the funeral of anyone; nay, it is even said that when the coffin was borne into the church, the tail of the long line of mourners was yet a whole mile away from the porch, and they had to wait till all had reached the church, though all could not find room within, before they began the words of the Funeral Service. The chief mourner was my brother Tom, and after him my father, at the head of so great a gathering of Forsters that you might think them an army in themselves. Then came the county gentlemen and private friends, and lastly the tenants and the common people, who wept tears of unfeigned sorrow, for they had lost a landlord and friend of a kind heart, although one who spent at a great rate and lived beyond his income. The foxhunters gave their brother sportsman the last viewholloa, as one fires a volley over the grave of a soldier; and the Manor House provided a noble supper for all the mourners, of high and low degree, with as much drink of all kinds as their grief could crave, so that few, indeed, departed sober from that last tribute of respect to the murdered man.

It was proved to be as Mr. Hilyard thought, —— Mr. Forster had made no will. Therefore, the Bamborough estates fell to Lady Crewe and Tom as coheirs, each to take a moiety.

‘Dorothy,’ Tom cried, ‘what we agreed to do shall be done. As soon as I am of age, and can go to live at the Manor House, thou shalt come too, and we will live together.’

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Last updated Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 13:32