London Pride, by Mary Elizabeth Braddon

Chapter 21

Good-Bye, London.

Sitting in her own room before supper, a letter was brought to Angela — a long letter, closely written, in a neat, firm hand she knew very well.

It was from Denzil Warner; a letter full of earnest thought and warm feeling, in which he pursued the subject of their morning’s discourse.

“We were interrupted before I had time to open my heart to you, dearest,” he wrote; “and at a moment when we had touched on the most delicate point in our friendship — the difference in our religious education and observance. Oh, my beloved, let not difference in particulars divide two hearts that worship the same God, or make a barrier between two minds that think alike upon essentials. The Christ who died for you is not less my Saviour because I love not to obtrude the dressed-up image of His earthly mother between His Godhead and my prayers. In the regeneration of baptism, in the sanctity of marriage, in the resurrection of the body, and the life of the world to come, in the reality of sin and the necessity for repentance, I believe as truly as any Papist living. Let our lives be but once united, who knows how the future may shape and modify our minds and our faith? I may be brought to your way of thinking, or you to mine. I will pledge myself never to be guilty of disrespect to your religion, or to unkindly urge you to any change in your observances. I am not one of those who have exchanged one tyranny for another, and who, released from the dominion of Rome, have become the slave of the Covenant. I have been taught by one who, himself deeply religious, would have all men free to worship God by the light of their own conscience; and to my wife, that dearer half of my soul, I would allow perfect freedom. I suffer from the lack of poetic phrases with which to embellish the plain reality of my love; but be sure, Angela, that you may travel far through the world, and receive many a flowery compliment to your beauty, yet meet none who will love you as faithfully as I have loved you for this year last past, and as I doubt I shall love you — happy or unfortunate in my wooing — for all the rest of my life. Think, dearest, whether it were not wise on your part to accept the chaste and respectful homage of a suitor who is free to love and cherish you, and thus to shield yourself from the sinful pursuit of one who offends Heaven and dishonours you whenever he looks at you with the eyes of a lover. I would not write harshly of a man whose very sin I pity, and whom I believe not wholly vile; but for him, as for me, that were a happy day which should make you my wife, and thus end the madness of unholy hopes. I would again urge that Lady Fareham desires our union with all a sister’s concern for you, and more than a friend’s tenderness to me.

“I beseech your pardon and indulgence for my rough words of this morning. God forbid that I should impute one unworthy thought to her whose virtues I honour above all earthly merit. If your heart inclines towards one whom it were misery for you to love, I know that it must be with an affection pure and ethereal as the love of the disguised girl in Fletcher’s play. But, ah, dearest angel, you know not the peril in which you walk. Your innocent mind cannot conceive the audacious height to which unholy love may climb in a man’s fiery nature. You cannot fathom the black depths of such a character as Fareham — a man as capable of greatness in evil as of distinction in good. Forget not whose fierce blood runs in those veins. Can you doubt his audacity in wrong-doing, when you remember that he comes of the same stock which produced that renegade and tyrant, Thomas Wentworth — a man who would have waded deep in the blood of a nation to reach his desired goal, all the history of whose life was expressed by him in one word —‘thorough’?

“Do you consider what that word means to a man over whose heart sin has taken the upper hand? Thorough! How resolute in evil, how undaunted and without limit in baseness, is he who takes that word for his motto! Oh, my love, there are dragons and lions about thy innocent footsteps — the dragons of lust, the lions of presumptuous love. Flee from thy worst enemy, dearest, to the shelter of a heart which adores thee; lean upon a breast whose pulses beat for thee with a truth that time cannot change.

“Thine till death,

“WARNER.”

Angela tore up the letter in anger. How dared he write thus of Lord Fareham? To impute sinful passions, guilty desires — to enter into another man’s mind, and read the secret cipher of his thoughts and wishes with an assumed key, which might be false? His letter was a bundle of false assumptions. What right had he to insist that her brother-in-law cared for her with more than the affection authorised by affinity? He had no right. She hated him for his insolent letter. She scorned the protection of his love. She had her refuge and her shelter in a holier love than his. The doors of the old home would open to her at a word.

She sat on a low stool in front of the hearth, while the pile of ship timber on the andirons burnt itself out and turned from red to grey. She sat looking into the dying fire and recalling the pictures of the past; the dull grey convent rooms and formal convent garden; the petty rules and restrictions; the so-frequent functions — low mass and high, benedictions, vespers — the recurrent sound of the chapel bell. The few dull books, permitted in the hour of so-called recreation; the sombre grey gown, which was the only relief from perpetual black; the limitations of that colourless life. She had been happy with the Ursulines under her kinswoman’s gentle sway. But could she be happy with the present Superior, whose domineering temper she knew? She had been happy in her ignorance of the outer world; but could she be happy again in that grey seclusion — she who had sat at the banquet of life, who had seen the beauty and the variety of her native land? To be an exile for the rest of her days, in the hopeless gloom of a Flemish convent, among the heavy faces of Flemish nuns!

In the intensity of introspective thought she had forgotten one who had forbidden that gloomy seclusion, and to whom it would be as natural for her to look for protection and refuge as to convent or husband. From her thoughts to-night the image of her wandering father had been absent. His appearances in her life had been so rare and so brief, his influence on her destiny so slight, that she was forgetful of him now in this crisis of her fate.

It was within a week of that evening that the sisters were startled by the arrival of their father, unannounced, in the dusk of the winter afternoon. He had come by slow stages from Spain, riding the greater part of the journey — like Howell, fifty years earlier — attended only by one faithful soldier-servant, and enduring no small suffering, and running no slight risk, upon the road.

“The wolves had our provender on more than one occasion,” he told them. “The wonder is they never had us or our hackneys. I left Madrid in July, not long after the death of my poor friend Fanshawe. Indeed, it was his friendship and his good lady’s unvarying courtesy that took me to the capital. We had last met at Hampton Court, with the King, shortly before his Majesty’s so ill-advised flight; and we were bosom-friends then. And so, he being dead of a fever early in the summer, I had no more to do but to travel slowly homeward, to end my days in my own chimney-corner, and to claim thy promise, Angela, that thou wouldst keep my house, and comfort my declining years.”

“Dear father!” Angela murmured, hanging over him as he sat in the high-backed velvet chair by the fire, while her ladyship’s footmen set a table near him, with wine and provisions for an impromptu meal, Lady Fareham directing them, and coming between-whiles to embrace her father in a flutter of spirits, the firelight shining on her flame-coloured velvet gown and primrose taffety petticoat, her pretty golden curls and sparkling Sévigné, her ruby necklace and earrings, and her bright restless eyes.

While the elder sister was all movement and agitation, the younger stood calm and still beside her father’s chair, her hands clasped in his, her thoughtful eyes looking down at him as he talked, stopping now and then in his story of adventures to eat and drink.

He looked much older than when he surprised her in the Convent garden. His hair and beard, then iron grey, were now silver white. He wore his own hair, which was abundant, and a beard cut after the fashion she knew in the portraits of Henri Quatre. His clothes also were of that style, which lived now only in the paintings of Vandyke and his school.

“How the girl looks at me!” Sir John said, surprising his daughter’s earnest gaze. “Does she take me for a ghost?”

“Indeed, sir, she may well fancy you have come back from the other world while you wear that antique suit,” said Hyacinth. “I hope your first business to-morrow will be to replenish your wardrobe by the assistance of Lord Rochester’s tailor. He is a German, and has the best cut for a justau-corps in all the West End. Fareham is shabby enough to make a wife ashamed of him; but his clothes are only too plain for his condition. Your Spanish cloak and steeple hat are fitter for a travelling quack doctor than for a gentleman of quality, and your doublet and vest might have come out of the ark.”

“If I change them, it will be but to humour your vanity, sweetheart,” answered her father. “I bought the suit in Paris three years ago, and I swore I would cast them back upon the snip’s hands if he gave me any new-fangled finery. But a riding-suit that has crossed the Pyrenees and stood a winter’s wear at Montpelier — where I have been living since October — can scarce do credit to a fine lady’s saloon; and thou art finest, I’ll wager, Hyacinth, where all are fine.”

“You would not say that if you had seen Lady Castlemaine’s rooms. I would wager that her gold and silver tapestry cost more than the contents of my house.”

“Thou shouldst not envy sin in high places, Hyacinth.”

“Envy! I envy a ——”

“Nay, love, no bad names! ’Tis a sorry pass England has come to when the most conspicuous personage at her Court is the King’s mistress. I was with Queen Henrietta at Paris, who received me mighty kindly, and bewailed with me over the contrast betwixt her never-to-be-forgotten husband and his sons. They have nothing of their father, she told me, neither in person nor in mind. ‘I know not whence their folly comes to them!’ she cried. It would have been uncivil to remind her that her own father, hero as he was, had set no saintly example to royal husbands; and that it is possible our princes take more of their character from their grandfather Henry than from the martyr Charles. Poor lady, I am told she left London deep in debt, after squandering her noble income of these latter years, and that she has sunk in the esteem of the French court by her alliance with Jermyn.”

“I can but wonder that she, above all women, should ever cease to be a widow.”

“She comes of a light-minded race and nation, Angela; and it is easy to her to forget; or she would not easily forget that so-adoring husband whose fortunes she ruined. His most fatal errors came from his subservience to her. When I saw her in her new splendour at Somerset House, all smiles and gaiety, with youth and beauty revived in the sunshine of restored fortune, I could but remember all he was, in dignity and manly affection, proud and pure as King Arthur in the old romance, and all she cost him by womanish tyrannies and prejudices, and difficult commands laid upon him at a juncture of so exceeding difficulty.”

The sisters listened in respectful silence. The old cavalier cut a fresh slice of chine, sighed, and continued his sermon.

“I doubt that while we, the lookers on, remember, they, the actors, forget; for could the son of such a noble victim wallow in a profligate court, surrender himself to the devilish necromancies of vicious women and viler men, if he remembered his father’s character, and his father’s death? No; memory must be a blank, and we, who suffered with our royal master, are fools to prate of ingratitude or neglect, since the son who can forget such a father may well forget his father’s servants and friends. But we will not talk of public matters in the first hour of our greeting. Nor need I prate of the King, since I have not come back to England to clap a periwig over my grey hairs, and play waiter upon Court favour, and wear out the back of my coat against the tapestry at Whitehall, standing in the rear of the crowd, to have my toes trampled upon by the sharp heels of Court ladies, and an elbow in my stomach more often than not. I am come, like Wolsey, girls, to lay my old bones among you. Art thou ready, Angela? Hast thou had enough of London, and play-houses, and parks; and wilt thou share thy father’s solitude in Buckinghamshire?”

“With all my heart, sir.”

“What! never a sigh for London pleasures? Thou hast the great lady’s air and carriage in that brave blue taffety. The nun I knew three years ago has vanished. Can you so lightly renounce the splendour of this house, and your sister’s company, to make a prosing old father happy?”

“Indeed, sir, I am ready to go with you.”

“How she says that — with what a countenance of woeful resignation! But I will not make the Manor Moat too severe a prison, dearest. You shall visit London, and your sister, when you will. There shall be a coach and a team of stout roadsters to pull it when they are not wanted for the plough. And the Vale of Aylesbury is but a long day’s journey from London, while ’tis no more than a morning’s ride to Chilton.”

“I could not bear for her to be long away from me,” said Hyacinth. “She is the only companion I have in the world.”

“Except your husband.”

“Husbands such as mine are poor company. Fareham has a moody brow, and a mind stuffed with public matters. He dines with Clarendon one day, and with Albemarle another; or he goes to Deptford to grumble with Mr. Evelyn; or he creeps away to some obscure quarter of the town to hob-nob with Milton, and with Marvel, the member for Hull. I doubt they are all of one mind in abusing his Majesty, and conspiring against him. If I lose my sister I shall have no one.”

“What, no one; when you have Henriette, who even three years ago had shrewdness enough to keep an old grandfather amused with her impertinent prattle?”

“Grandfathers are easily amused by children they see as seldom as you have seen Papillon. To have her about you all day, with her everlasting chatter, and questions, and remarks, and opinions (a brat of twelve with opinions), would soon give you the vapours.”

“I am not so subject to vapours as you, child. Let me look at you, now the candles are lighted.”

The footmen had lighted clusters of wax candles on either side the tall chimney-piece.

Sir John drew his elder daughter to the light, and scrutinised her face with a father’s privilege of uncompromising survey.

“You paint thick enough, i’ conscience’ name, though not quite so thick as the Spanish señoras. They are browner than you, and need a heavier hand with white and red. But you are haggard under all your red. You are not the woman I left in ‘65.”

“I am near two years older than the woman you left; and as for paint, there is not a woman over twenty in London who uses as little red and white as I do.”

“What has become of Fareham to-night?” Sir John asked presently, when Hyacinth had picked up her favourite spaniel to nurse and fondle, while Angela had resumed her occupation at an embroidery frame, and a reposeful air as of a long-established domesticity had fallen upon the scene.

“He is at Chilton. When he is not plotting he rushes off to Oxfordshire for the hunting and shooting. He loves buglehorns and yelping curs, and huntsmen’s cracked voices, far before the company of ladies or the conversation of wits.”

“A man was never meant to sit in a velvet chair and talk fine. It is all one for a French Abbé and a few old women in men’s clothing to sit round the room and chop logic with a learned spinster like Mademoiselle Scudéry; but men must live sub Jove, unless they are statesmen or clerks. They must have horses and hounds, gun and spaniel, hawk or rod. I am glad Fareham loves sport. And as for that talk of conspiring, let me not hear it from thee, Hyacinth. ’Tis a perilous discourse to but hint at treason; and your husband is a loyal gentleman who loves, and”— with a wry face —“reveres — his King.”

“Oh, I was only jesting. But, indeed, a man who so disparages the things other people love must needs be a rebel at heart. Did you hear of Monsieur de Malfort while you were at Paris?”

The inquiry was made with that over-acted carelessness which betrays hidden pain; but the soldier’s senses had been blunted by the rough-and-tumble of an adventurer’s life, and he was not on the alert for shades of feeling.

Angela accepted her father’s return, with the new duties it imposed upon her, as if it had been a decree of Heaven. She put aside all consideration of that refuge which would have meant so complete a renunciation and farewell. On her knees that night, in the midst of fervent prayers, her tears streamed fast at the thought that, secure in the shelter of her father’s love, in the peaceful solitude of her native valley, she could look to a far-off future when she and Fareham might meet with out fear of sin, when no cloud of passion should darken his brotherly affection for her; when his heart, now estranged from holy things, would have returned to the faith of his ancestors, reconciled to God and the Church. She could but think of him now as a fallen angel — a wanderer who had strayed far from the only light and guide of human life, and was thus a mark for the tempter. What lesser power than Satan’s could have so turned good to evil; the friendship of a brother to the base passion which had made so wide a gulf between them; and which must keep them strangers till he was cured of his sin? Only to diabolical possession could she ascribe the change that had come over him since those happy days when she had watched the slow dawn of health upon his sunken cheeks, when he and she had travelled together through the rich autumn woods, along the pleasant English roads, and when, in the leisure of the slow journey, he had poured out his thoughts to her, the story of his life, his opinions, expatiating in fraternal confidence upon the things he loved and the things he hated. And at Chilton, she looked back and remembered his goodness to her, the pains he had taken in choosing horses for her to ride, their long mornings on the river with Henriette, their hawking parties, and in all his tender brotherly care of her. The change in him had come about by almost imperceptible degrees: but it had been chiefly marked by a fitful temper that had cut her to the quick; now kind; now barely civil; courting her company to-day; to-morrow avoiding her, as if there were contagion in her presence. Then, after the meeting at Millbank, there had come a coldness so icy, a sarcasm so cutting, that for a long time she had thought he hated as much as he despised her. She had withered in his contempt. His unkindness had overshadowed every hour of her life, and the longing to cry out to him “Indeed, sir, your thoughts wrong me. I am not the wretch you think,” had been almost too much for her fortitude. She had felt that she must exculpate herself, even though in so doing she should betray her sister. But honour, and affection for Hyacinth, had prevailed; and she had bent her shoulders to the burden of undeserved shame. She had sat silent and abashed in his presence, like a guilty creature.

Sir John Kirkland spent a week at Fareham House, employed in choosing a team of horses, suitable alike for the road and the plough, looking out, among the coachmakers, for a second-hand travelling carriage, and eventually buying a coach of Lady Fanshawe’s, which had been brought from Madrid with the rest of her very extensive goods and chattels.

One need scarce remark that it was not one of the late Ambassador’s state carriages, his ruby velvet coach, with fringes that cost three hundred pounds, or his brocade carriage, but a coach that had been built for the everyday use of his suite.

Sir John also bought a little plain silver, in place of that fine collection of silver and parcel-gilt which had been so willingly sacrificed to royal necessities; and though he breathed no sigh over past losses, some bitter thoughts may have come across his cheerfulness as he heard of the splendour and superabundance of Lady Castlemaine’s plate and jewels, or of the ring worth six hundred pounds lately presented to a pretty actress.

In a week he was ready for Buckinghamshire; and Angela had her trunks packed, and had bid good-bye to her London friends, amidst the chatter of Lady Fareham’s visiting-day, and the clear, bell-like clash of delicate china tea-cups — miniature bowls of egg-shell porcelain, without handles, and to be held daintily between the tips of high-bred fingers.

There was a chorus of courteous bewailing at the notion of Mrs. Kirkland’s departure.

Sir Ralph Masaroon pretended to be in despair.

“Is it not bad enough to have had the coldest winter my youth can remember? But you must needs take the sun from our spring. Why, the maids of honour will count for handsome when you are gone. What’s that Butler says? —

‘The twinkling stars begin to muster,

And glitter with their borrowed lustre.’

But what’s to become of me without the sun? I shall have no one to side-glass in the Ring.”

“Indeed, Sir Ralph, I did not know that you ever side-glassed me!”

“What, you have suffered my devotion to pass unperceived? When I have broken half a dozen coach windows in your service, rattling a glass down with a vehemence which would have startled a Venus in marble to turn and recognise an adorer! Round and round the Ring I have driven for hours, on the chance of a look. Nay, marble is not so coy as froward beauty! And at the Queen’s chapel have I not knelt at the Mass morning after morning, at the risk of being thought a Papist, for the sake of seeing you at prayers; and have envied the Romish dog who handed you the aspersoir as you went out? And you to be unconscious all the time!”

“Nay, ’tis so much happier for me, Sir Ralph, since you have given me a reserve of gratified vanity that will last me a year in the country, where I shall see nothing but ploughmen and bird-boys.”

“Look out for the scarecrows in Sir John’s fields, for the odds are you will see me some day disguised as one.”

“Why disguised?” asked his friend Mr. Penington, who had lately produced a comedy that had been acted three afternoons at the Duke’s Theatre, and one evening at Court, which may be taken as a prosperous run for a new play.

Lady Sarah Tewkesbury held forth on the pleasures of a country life, and lamented that family connections and the necessity of standing well with the Court constrained her to spend the greater part of her existence in town.

“I am like Milton,” she said. “I adore a rural life. To hear the cock —

‘From his watchtower in the skies,

When the horse and hound do rise.’

Oh, I love buttercups and daisies above all the Paris finery in the Exchange; and to steep one’s complexion in May-dew, and to sup on a syllabub or a dish of frumenty — so cheap, too, while it costs a fortune but to scrape along in London.”

“The country is well enough for a month at hay-making, to romp with a bevy of London beauties in the meadows near Tunbridge Wells, or to dance to a couple of fiddles on the Common by moonlight,” said Mr. Penington; whereupon all agreed that Tunbridge Wells, Epsom, Doncaster, and Newmarket were the only country possible to people of intellect.

“I would never go further than Epsom, if I had my will,” said Sir Ralph; “for I see no pleasure in Newmarket for a man who keeps no running-horses, and has no more interest in the upshot of a race than he might have in a maggot match on his own dining-table, did he stake high enough on the result.”

“But my sister is not to be buried in Buckinghamshire all the year round,” explained Hyacinth. “I shall fetch her here half a dozen times in a season; and her shortest visits must be long enough to take the country freshness out of her complexion, and save her from becoming a milkmaid.”

“Gud, to see her freckled!” cried Penington. “I could as soon imagine Helen with a hump. That London pallor is the choicest charm in a girl of quality — a refined sickliness that appeals to the heart of a man of feeling, an ‘if-you-don’t-lend-me-your-arm-I-shall-swoon’ sort of air. Your country hoyden, with her roses-and-cream complexion, and open-air manners, is more shocking than Medusa to a man of taste.”

The talk drifted to other topics at the mention of Buckingham, who had but lately been let out of the Tower, where he and Lord Dorchester had been committed for scuffling and quarrelling at the Canary Conference.

“Has your ladyship seen the Duke and Lord Dorchester since they came out of the house of bondage?” asked Lady Sarah. “I think Buckingham was never so gay and handsome, and takes his imprisonment as the best joke that ever was, and is as great at Court as ever.”

“His Majesty is but too indulgent,” said Masaroon, “and encourages the Duke to be insolent and careless of ceremony. He had the impertinence to show himself at chapel before he had waited on his Majesty.”

“Who was very angry and forbade him the Court,” said Penington. “But Buckingham sent the King one of his foolish, jesting letters, capped with a rhyme or two; and if you can make Charles Stuart laugh you may pick his pocket ——”

“Or seduce his mistress ——”

“Oh, he will forgive much to wit and gaiety. He learnt the knack of taking life easily, while he led that queer, shifting life in exile. He was a cosmopolitan and a soldier of fortune before he was a King de facto; and still wears the loose garments of those easy, beggarly days, when he had neither money nor care. Be sure he regrets that roving life — Madrid, Paris, the Hague — and will never love a son as well as little Monmouth, the child of his youth.”

“What would he not give to make that base-born brat Prince of Wales? Strange that while Lord Ross is trying to make his offspring illegitimate by Act of Parliament, his master’s anxieties should all tend the other way.”

“Don’t talk to me of Parliament!” cried Lady Sarah; “the tyranny of the Rump was nothing to them. Look at the tax upon French wines, which will make it almost impossible for a lady of small means to entertain her friends. And an Act for burying us all in woollen, for the benefit of the English trade in wool.”

“But, indeed, Lady Sarah, it is we of the old faith who have most need to complain,” said Lady Fareham, “since these wretches make us pay a double poll-tax; and all our foreign friends are being driven away for the same reason — just because the foolish and the ignorant must needs put down the fire to the Catholics.”

“Indeed, your ladyship, the Papists have had an unlucky knack at lighting fires, as Smithfield and Oxford can testify,” said Penington; “and perhaps, having no more opportunity of roasting martyrs, it may please some of your creed to burn Protestant houses, with the chance of cooking a few Protestants inside ’em.”

Angela had drawn away from the little knot of fine ladies and finer gentlemen, and was sitting in the bay window of an ante-room, with Henriette and the boy, who were sorely dejected at the prospect of losing her. The best consolation she could offer was to promise that they should be invited to the Manor Moat as soon as she and her father had settled themselves comfortably there — if their mother could spare them.

Henriette laughed outright at this final clause.

“Spare us!” she cried. “Does she ever want us? I don’t think she knows when we are in the room, unless we tread upon her gown, when she screams out ‘Little viper!’ and hits us with her fan.”

“The lightest touch, Papillon; not so hard as you strike your favourite baby.”

“Oh, she doesn’t hurt me; but the disrespect of it! Her only daughter, and nearly as high as she is!”

“You are an ungrateful puss to complain, when her ladyship is so kind as to let you be here to see all her fine company.”

“I am sick of her company, almost always the same, and always talking about the same things. The King, and the Duke, and the General, and the navy; or Lady Castlemaine’s jewels, or the last new head from Paris, or her ladyship’s Flanders lace. It is all as dull as ditch-water now Monsieur de Malfort is gone. He was always pleasant, and he let me play on his guitar, though he swore it excruciated him. And he taught me the new Versailles coranto. There’s no pleasure for any one since he fell ill and left England.”

“You shall come to the Manor. It will be a change, even though you hate the country and love London.”

“I have left off loving London. I have had too much of it. If his lordship let us go to the play-house often it would be different. Oh, how I loved Philaster — and that exquisite page! Do you think I could act that character, auntie, if his lordship’s tailor made me such a dress?”

“I think thou hast impudence for anything, dearest.”

“I would rather act that page than Pauline in Polyeucte, though Mademoiselle swears I speak her tirades nearly as well as an actress she once saw at the Marais, who was too old and fat for the character. How I should love to be an actress, and to play tragedy and comedy, and make people cry and laugh! Indeed, I would rather be anything than a lady — unless I could be exactly like Lady Castlemaine.”

“Ah, Heaven forbid!”

“But why not? I heard Sir Ralph tell mother that, let her behave as badly as she may, she will always be atop of the tree, and that the young sparks at the Chapel Royal hardly look at their prayer-books for gazing at her, and that the King ——”

“Ah, sweetheart, I want to hear no more of her!”

“Why, don’t you like her? I thought you did not know her. She never comes here.”

“Are there any staghounds in the Vale of Aylesbury?” asked the boy, who had been looking out of the window, watching the boats go by, unheeding his sister’s babble.

“I know not, love; but there shall be dogs enough for you to play with, I’ll warrant, and a pony for you to ride. Grandfather shall get them for his dearest.”

Sir John was fond of Henriette, whom he looked upon as a marvel of precocious brightness; but the boy was his favourite, whom he loved with an old man’s half-melancholy affection for the creature which is to live and act a part in the world when he, the greybeard, shall be dust.

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Last updated Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 13:31