London Pride, by Mary Elizabeth Braddon

Chapter 9

In a Puritan House.

How quickly the days passed in that gay household at Chilton! and yet every day of Angela’s life held so much of action and emotion that, looking back at Christmas time to the three months that had slipped by since she had brought Fareham from his sick bed to his country home, she could but experience that common feeling of youth in such circumstances. Surely it was half a lifetime that had lapsed; or else she, by some subtle and supernatural change, had become a new creature.

She thought of her life in the Convent, thought of it much and deeply on those Sunday mornings when she and her sister and De Malfort and a score or so of servants crept quietly to a room in the heart of the house where a Priest, who had been fetched from Oxford in, Lady Fareham’s coach, said Mass within locked doors. The familiar words of the service, the odour of the incense, brought back the old time — the unforgotten atmosphere, the dull tranquillity of ten years, which had been as one year by reason of their level monotony.

Could she go back to such a life as that? Go back! Leave all she loved? At the mere suggestion her trembling hand was stretched out involuntarily to clasp her niece Henriette, kneeling beside her. Leave them — leave those with whom and for whom she lived? Leave this loving child — her sister — her brother? Fareham had told her to call him “Brother.” He had been to her as a brother, with all a brother’s kindness, counselling her, confiding in her.

Only with one person at Chilton Abbey had she ever conversed as seriously as with Fareham, and that person was Sir Denzil Warner, who at five and twenty was more serious in his way of looking at serious things than most men of fifty.

“I cannot make a jest of life,” he said once, in reply to some flippant speech of De Malfort’s; “it is too painful a business for the majority.”

“What has that to do with us — the minority? Can we smooth a sick man’s pillow by pulling a long face? We shall do him more good by tossing him a crown, if he be poor; or helping to build him a hospital by the sacrifice of a night’s winnings at ombre. Long faces help nobody; that is what you Puritans will never consider.”

“No; but if the long faces are the faces of men who think, something may come of their thoughts for the good of humanity.”

Denzil Warner was the only person who ever spoke to Angela of her religion. With extreme courtesy, and with gentle excuses for his temerity in touching on so delicate a theme, he ventured to express his abhorrence of the superstitions interwoven with the Romanist’s creed. He talked as one who had sat at the feet of the blind poet — talked sometimes in the very words of John Milton.

There was much in what he said that appealed to her reason; but there was no charm in that severer form of worship which he offered in exchange for her own. He was frank and generous; he had a fine nature, but was too much given to judging his fellow-men. He had all the arrogance of Puritanism superadded to the natural arrogance of youth that has never known humiliating reverses, that has never been the servant of circumstance. He was Angela’s senior by something less than four years; yet it seemed to her that he was in every attribute infinitely her superior. In education, in depth of thought, in resolution for good, and scorn of evil. If he loved her — as Hyacinth insisted upon declaring — there was nothing of youthful impetuosity in his passion. He had, indeed, betrayed his sentiments by no direct speech. He had told her gravely that he was interested in her, and deeply concerned that one so worthy and so amiable should have been brought up in the house of idolaters, should have been taught falsehood instead of truth.

She stood up boldly for the faith of her maternal ancestors.

“I cannot continue your friend if you speak evil of those I love, Sir Denzil,” she said. “Could you have seen the lives of those good ladies of the Ursuline Convent, their unselfishness, their charity, you must needs have respected their religion. I cannot think why you love to say hard words of us Catholics; for in all I have ever heard or seen of the lives of the Nonconformists they approach us far more nearly in their principles than the members of the Church of England, who, if my sister does not paint them with too black a brush, practise their religion with a laxity and indifference that would go far to turn religion to a jest.”

Whatever Sir Denzil’s ideas might be upon the question of creed — and he did not scruple to tell Angela that he thought every Papist foredoomed to everlasting punishment — he showed so much pleasure in her society as to be at Chilton Abbey, and the sharer of her walks and rides, as often as possible. Lady Fareham encouraged his visits, and was always gracious to him. She discovered that he possessed the gift of music, though not in the same remarkable degree as Henri de Malfort, who played the guitar exquisitely, and into whose hands you had but to put a musical instrument for him to extract sweetness from it. Lute or theorbo, viola or viol di gamba, treble or bass, came alike to his hand and ear. Some instruments he had studied; with some his skill came by intuition.

Denzil Warner performed very creditably upon the organ. He had played on John Milton’s organ in St. Bride’s Church, when he was a boy, and he had played of late in the church at Chalfont St. Giles, where he had visited Milton frequently, since the poet had left his lodgings in Artillery Walk, carrying his family and his books to that sequestered village in the shelter of the hills between Uxbridge and Beaconsfield. Here from the lips of his sometime tutor the Puritan had heard such stories of the Court as made him hourly expectant of exterminating fires. Doubtless the fire would have come, as it came upon Sodom and Gomorrah, but for those righteous lives of the Nonconformists, which redeemed the time; quiet, god-fearing lives in dull old city houses, in streets almost as narrow as those which Milton remembered in his beloved Italy; streets where the sun looked in for an hour, shooting golden arrows down upon the diamond-paned casements, and deepening the shadow of the massive timbers that held up the overlapping stories, looked in and bade “good night” within an hour or so, leaving an atmosphere of sober grey, cool, and quiet, and dull, in those obscure streets and alleys where the great traffic of Cheapside or Ludgate sounded like the murmur of a far-off sea.

Pious men and women worshipped the implacable God of the Puritans in the secret chambers of those narrow streets; and those who gathered together in these days — if they rejected the Liturgy of the Church of England — must indeed be few, and must meet by stealth, as if to pray or preach after their own manner were a crime. Charles, within a year or so of his general amnesty and happy restoration, had made such worship criminal; and now the Five Mile Act, lately passed at Oxford, had rendered the restrictions and penalties of Nonconformity utterly intolerable. Men were lying in prison here and there about merry England for no greater offence than preaching the gospel to a handful of God-fearing people. But that a Puritan tinker should moulder for a dozen years in a damp jail could count for little against the blessed fact of the Maypole reinstated in the Strand, and five play-houses in London performing ribald comedies, till but recently, when the plague shut their doors.

Milton, old and blind, and somewhat soured by domestic disappointments, had imparted no optimistic philosophy to young Denzil Warner, whose father he had known and loved. The fight at Hopton Heath had made Denzil fatherless; the Colonel of Warner’s horse riding to his death in the last fatal charge of that memorable day.

Denzil had grown up under the prosperous rule of the Protector, and his boyhood had been spent in the guardianship of a most watchful and serious-minded mother. He had been somewhat over-cosseted and apron-stringed, it may be, in that tranquil atmosphere of the rich widow’s house; but not all Lady Warner’s tenderness could make her son a milksop. Except for a period of two years in London, when he had lived under the roof of the great Republican, a docile pupil to a stern but kind master, Denzil had lived mostly under the open sky, was a keen sportsman, and loved the country with almost as sensitive a love as his quondam master and present friend, John Milton; and it was perhaps this appreciation of rural beauty which had made a bond of friendship between the great poet and the Puritan squire.

“You have a knack of painting rural scenes which needs but to be joined with the gift of music to make you a poet,” he said, when Denzil had been expatiating upon the landscape amidst which he had enjoyed his last bout of falconry, or his last run with his half-dozen couple of hounds. “You are almost as the power of sight to me when you describe those downs and valleys whose every shape and shadow I once knew so well. Alas, that I should be changed so much and they so little!”

“It is one thing, sir, to feel that this world is beautiful, and another to find golden words and phrases which to a prisoner in the Tower could conjure up as fair a landscape as Claude Lorraine ever painted. Those sonorous and mellifluous lines which you were so gracious as to repeat to me, forming part of the great epic which the world is waiting for, bear witness to the power that can turn words into music, and make pictures out of the common tongue. That splendid art, sir, is but given to one man in a century — or in several centuries; since I know but Dante and Virgil who have ever equalled your vision of heaven and hell.”

“Do not over-praise me, Denzil, in thy charity to poverty and affliction. It is pleasing to be understood by a youth who loves hawk and hound better than books; for it offers the promise of popular appreciation in years to come. Yet the world is so little athirst for my epic that I doubt if I shall find a bookseller to give me a few pounds for the right to print a work that has cost me years of thought and laborious revision. But at least it has been my consolation in the long blank night of my decay, and has saved me many a heart-ache. For while I am building up my verses, and engraving line after line upon the tablets of memory, I can forget that I am blind, and poor, and neglected, and that the dear saint I loved was snatched from me in the noontide of our happiness.”

Denzil talked much of John Milton in his conversations with Angela, during those rides or rambles, in which Papillon was their only chaperon. Lady Fareham sauntered, like her royal master; but she rarely walked a mile at a stretch; and she was pleased to encourage the rural wanderings that brought her sister and Warner into a closer intimacy, and promised well for the success of her matrimonial scheme.

“I believe they adore each other already,” she told Fareham one morning, standing by his side in the great stone porch, to watch those three youthful figures ride away, aunt and niece side by side, on palfrey and pony, with Denzil for their cavalier.

“You are always over-quick to be sure of anything that suits your own fancy, dearest,” answered Fareham, watching them to the curve of the avenue; “but I see no signs of favour to that solemn youth in your sister. She suffers his attentions out of pure civility. He is an accomplished horseman, having given all his life to learning how to jump a fence gracefully; and his company is at least better than a groom’s.”

“How scornfully you jeer at him!”

“Oh, I have no more scorn than the Cavalier’s natural contempt for the Roundhead. A hereditary hatred, perhaps.”

“You say such hard things of his Majesty that one might often take you to be of Sir Denzil’s way of thinking.”

“I never think about the King. I only wonder. I may sometimes express my wonderment too freely for a loyal subject.”

“I cannot vouch for Angela, but I will wager that he is deep in love,” persisted Hyacinth.

“Have it your own way, sweetheart. He is dull enough to be deep in debt, or love, or politics, anything dismal and troublesome,” answered his lordship, as he strolled off with his spaniels; not those dainty toy dogs which had been his companions at the gate of death, but the fine liver-and-black shooting dogs that lived in the kennels, and thought it doghood’s highest privilege to attend their lord in his walks, whether with or without a gun.

His lordship kept open Christmas that year at Chilton Abbey, and there was great festivity, chiefly devised and carried out by the household, as Fareham and his wife were too much of the modern fashion, and too cosmopolitan in their ideas, to appreciate the fuss and feasting of an English Christmas. They submitted, however, to the festival as arranged for them by Mr. Manningtree and Mrs. Hubbuck — the copious feasting for servants and dependents, the mummers and carolsingers, the garlands and greenery which disguised the fine old tapestry, and made a bower of the vaulted hall. Everything was done with a lavish plenteousness, and no doubt the household enjoyed the fun and feasting all the more because of that dismal season of a few years back, when all Christmas ceremonies had been denounced as idolatrous, and when the members of the Anglican Church had assembled for their Christmas service secretly in private houses, and as much under the ban of the law as the Nonconformists were now.

Angela was interested in everything in that bright world where all things were new. The children piping Christmas hymns in the clear cold morning enchanted her. She ran down to kiss and fondle the smaller among them, and finding them thinly clad promised to make them warm cloaks and hoods as fast as her fingers could sew. Denzil found her there in the wide snowy space before the porch, prattling with the children, bare-headed, her soft brown hair blown about in the wind; and he was moved, as a man must needs be moved by the aspect of the woman that he loves caressing a small child, melted almost to tears by the thought that in some blessed time to come she might so caress, only more warmly, a child whose existence should be their bond of union.

And yet, being both shy and somewhat cold of temperament, he restrained himself, and greeted her only as a friend; for his mother’s influence was holding him back, urging him not to marry a Papist, were she ever so lovely or lovable.

He had known Angela for nearly three months, and his acquaintance with her had reached this point of intimacy, yet Lady Warner had never seen her. This fact distressed him, and he had tried hard to awaken his mother’s interest by praises of the Fareham family and of Angela’s exquisite character; but the Scarlet Spectre came between the Puritan lady and the house of Fareham.

“There is nothing you can tell me about this girl, upon whom I fear you have foolishly set your affection, which can make me forget that she has been nursed and swaddled in the bondage of a corrupt Church, taught to worship idols, and to cherish lying traditions, while the light of God’s holy word has been made dark for her.”

“She is young enough to embrace a purer creed, and to walk by the clearer light that leads your footsteps, mother. If she were my wife I should not despair of winning her to think as we do.”

“And in all the length of England was there no young woman of right principles fit to be thy wife, that thou must needs fall into the snare of the first Popish witch who set her lure for thee?”

“Popish witch! Oh, mother, how ill you can conceive the image of my dear love, who has no witchcraft but beauty, no charm so potent as her truth and innocency!”

“I know them — these children of the Scarlet Woman — and I know their works, and the fate of those who trust them. The late King — weak and stubborn as he was — might have been alive this day, and reigning over a contented people, but for that fair witch who ruled him. It was the Frenchwoman’s sorceries that wrought Charles’s ruin.”

“If thou wouldst but see my Angela,” pleaded the son, with a caressing arm about his mother’s spare shoulders.

“Thine! What! is she thine — pledged and promised already? Then, indeed, these white hairs will go down with sorrow to the grave.”

“Mother, I doubt if thou couldst find so much as a single grey hair in that comely head of thine,” said the son; and the mother smiled in the midst of her affliction.

“And as for promise — there has been none. I have said no word of love; nor have I been encouraged to speak by any token of liking on the lady’s part. I stand aloof and admire, and wonder at so much modesty and intelligence in Lady Fareham’s sister. Let me bring her to see you, mother?”

“This is your house, Denzil. Were you to fill it with the sons and daughters of Belial, I could but pray that your eyes might be opened to their iniquity. I could not shut these doors against you or your companions. But I want no Popish women here.”

“Ah, you do not know! Wait until you have seen her,” urged Denzil, with the lover’s confidence in the omnipotence of his mistress’s charms.

And now on this Christmas Day there came the opportunity Denzil had been waiting for. The weather was cold and bright, the landscape was blotted out with snow; and the lake in Chilton Park offered a sound surface for the exercise of that novel amusement of skating, an accomplishment which Lord Fareham had acquired while in the Low Countries, and in which he had been Denzil’s instructor during the late severe weather. Angela, at her brother-in-law’s entreaty, had also adventured herself upon a pair of skates, and had speedily found delight in the swift motion, which seemed to her like the flight of a bird skimming the steely surface of the frozen lake, and incomparable in enjoyment.

“It is even more delightful than a gallop on Zephyr,” she told her sister, who stood on the bank with a cluster of gay company, watching the skaters.

“I doubt not that; since there is even more danger of getting your neck broken upon runaway skates than on a runaway horse,” answered Hyacinth.

After an hour on the lake, in which Denzil had distinguished himself by his mastery of the new exercise, being always at hand to support his mistress at the slightest indication of peril, she consented to the removal of her skates, at Papillon’s earnest entreaty, who wanted her aunt to walk with her before dinner. After dinner there would be the swift-coming December twilight, and Christmas games, snap-dragon and the like, which Papillon, although a little fine lady, reproducing all her mother’s likes and dislikes in miniature, could not, as a human child, altogether disregard.

“I don’t care about such nonsense as Georgie does,” she told her aunt, with condescending reference to her brother; “but I like to see the others amused. Those village children are such funny little savages. They stick their fingers in their mouths and grin at me, and call me ‘Your annar,’ or ‘Your worship,’ and say ‘Anan’ to everything. They are like Audrey in the play you read to me.”

Denzil was in attendance upon aunt and niece.

“If you want to come with us, you must invent a pretty walk, Sir Denzil,” said Papillon. “I am tired of long lanes and ploughed fields.”

“I know of one of the pleasantest rambles in the shire — across the woods to the Grange. And we can rest there for half an hour, if Mrs. Angela will allow us, and take a light refreshment.”

“Dear Sir Denzil, that is the very thing,” answered Papillon, breathlessly. “I am dying of hunger. And I don’t want to go back to the Abbey. Will there be any cakes or mince pies at the Grange?”

“Cakes in plenty, but I fear there will be no mince pies. My mother does not love Christmas dainties.”

Henriette wanted to know why. She was always wanting the reason of things. A bright inquiring little mind, perpetually on the alert for novelty; an imitative brain like a monkey’s; hands and feet that know not rest; and there you have the Honourable Henrietta Maria Revel, alias Papillon.

They crossed the river, Angela and Denzil each taking an oar, while Papillon pretended to steer, a process which she effected chiefly by screaming.

“Another lump of ice!” she shrieked. “We shall be swamped. I believe the river will be frozen before Twelfth Night, and we shall be able to dance upon it. We must have bonfires and roast an ox for the poor people. Mrs. Hubbuck told me they roasted an ox the year King Charles was beheaded. Horrid brutes — to think that they could eat at such a time! If they had been sorry they could not have relished roast beef.”

Hadley Grange, commonly known as the Grange, was in every detail the antithesis of Chilton Abbey. At the Abbey the eye was dazzled, the mind was bewildered, by an excess of splendour — an over-much of everything gorgeous or beautiful. At the Grange sight and mind were rested by the low tone of colour, the quaker-like precision of form. All the furniture in the house was Elizabethan, plain, ponderous, the conscientious work of Oxfordshire mechanics. On one side of the house there was a bowling green, on the other a physic garden, where odours of medicinal herbs, camomile, fennel, rosemary, rue, hung ever on the surrounding air. There was nothing modern in Lady Warner’s house but the spotless cleanliness; the perfume of last summer’s roses and lavender; the polished surface of tables and cabinets, oak chests and oak floors, testifying to the inexorable industry of rustic housemaids. In all other respects the Grange was like a house that had just awakened from a century of sleep.

Lady Warner rose from her high-backed chair by the chimney corner in the oak parlour, and laid aside the book she had been reading, to welcome her son, startled at seeing him followed by a tall, fair girl in a black mantle and hood, and a little slip of a thing, with bright dark eyes and small determined face, pert, pointed, interrogative, framed in swansdown — a small aërial figure in a white cloth cloak, and a scarlet brocade frock, under which two little red shoes danced into the room.

“Mother, I have brought Mrs. Angela Kirkland and her niece to visit you this Christmas morning.”

“Mrs. Kirkland and her niece are welcome,” and Lady Warner made a deep curtsy, not like one of Lady Fareham’s sinking curtseys, as of one near swooning in an ecstasy of politeness, but dignified and inflexible, straight down and straight up again.

“But as for Christmas, ’tis one of those superstitious observances which I have ever associated with a Church I abhor.”

Denzil reddened furiously. To have brought this upon his beloved!

Angela drew herself up, and paled at the unexpected assault. The brutality of it was startling, though she knew, from Denzil’s opinions, that his mother must be an enemy of her faith.

“Indeed, madam, I am sorry that anybody in England should think it an ill thing to celebrate the birthday of our Redeemer and Lord,” she said.

“Do you think, young lady, that foolish romping games, and huge chines of beef, and smoking ale made luscious with spices and roasted pippins, and carol-singing and play-acting, can be the proper honouring of Him who was God first and for ever, and Man only for one brief interval in His eternal existence? To keep God’s birthday with drunken rioting! What blasphemy! If you can think that there is not more profaneness than piety in such sensual revelries — why, it is that you do not know how to think. You would have learnt to reason better had you known that sweet poet and musician, and true thinker, Mr. John Milton, with whom it was my privilege to converse frequently during my husband’s lifetime, and afterwards when he condescended to accept my son for his pupil, and spent three days and nights under this roof.”

“Mr. Milton is still at Chalfont, mother. So you may hope to see him again with a less journey than to London,” said Denzil, seizing the first chance of a change in the conversation; “and here is a little Miss to whom I have promised a light collation, with some of your Jersey milk.”

“Mistress Kirkland and her niece shall have the best I can provide. The larder will furnish something acceptable, I doubt not, although I and my household observe this day as a fast.”

“What, madam, are you sorry that Jesus Christ was born to-day?” asked Papillon.

“I am sorry for my sins, little mistress, and for the sins of all mankind, which nothing but His blood could wash away. To remember His birth is to remember that He died for us; and that is why I spend the twenty-fifth of December in fasting and prayer.”

“Are you not glad you are to dine at the Abbey to-day, Sir Denzil?” asked Papillon, by way of commentary.

“Nay, I put no restraint on my son. He can serve God after his own manner, and veer with every wind of passion or fancy, if he will. But you shall have your cake and draught of milk, little lady, and you too, Mistress Kirkland, will, I hope, taste our Jersey milk, unless you would prefer a glass of Malmsey wine.”

“Mrs. Kirkland is as much an anchorite as yourself, mother. She takes no wine.”

Lady Warner was the soul of hospitality, and particularly proud of her dairy. When kept clear of theology and politics she was not an ill-natured woman. But to be a Puritan in the year of the Five Mile Act was not to think kindly of the Government under which she lived; while her sense of her own wrongs was intensified by rumours of over-indulgence shown to Papists, and the broad assertion that King and Duke were Roman Catholic at heart, and waited only the convenient hour to reforge the fetters that had bound England to Rome.

She was fond of children, most of all of little girls, never having had a daughter. She bent down to kiss Henriette, and then turned to Angela with her kindest smile —

“And this is Lady Fareham’s daughter? She is as pretty as a picture.”

“And I am as good as a picture — sometimes, madam,” chirped Papillon. “Mother says I am douce comme un image.

“When thou hast been silent or still for five minutes,” said Angela, “and that is but seldom.”

A loud hand-bell summoned the butler, and an Arcadian meal was speedily set out on a table in the hall, where a great fire of logs burnt as merrily as if it had been designed to enliven a Christmas-keeping household. Indeed there was nothing miserly or sparing about the housekeeping at the Grange, which harmonised with the sombre richness of Lady Warner’s grey brocade gown, from the old-fashioned silk mercer’s at the sign of the Flower-de-luce, in Cheapside. There was liberality without waste, and a certain quiet refinement in every detail, which reminded Angela of the convent parlour and her aunt’s room — and contrasted curiously with the elegant disorder of her sister’s surroundings.

Papillon clapped her hands at sight of the large plum cake, the jug of milk, and bowl of blackberry conserve.

“I was so hungry,” she said, apologetically, after Denzil had supplied her with generous slices of cake, and large spoonfuls of jam. “I did not know that Nonconformists had such nice things to eat.”

“Did you think we all lay in gaol to suffer cold and hunger for the faith that is in us, like that poor preacher at Bedford?” asked Lady Warner, bitterly. “It will come to that some day, perhaps, under the new Act.”

“Will you show Mistress Kirkland your house, mother, and your dairy?” Denzil asked hurriedly. “I know she would like to see one of the neatest dairies in Oxfordshire.”

No request could be more acceptable to Lady Warner, who was a housekeeper first and a controversialist afterwards. Inclined as she was to rail against the Church of Rome — partly because she had made up her mind upon hearsay, chiefly Miltonian, that Roman Catholicism was only another name for image-worship and martyr-burning, and partly on account of the favour that had been shown to Papists, as compared with the cruel treatment of Nonconformists — still there was a charm in Angela’s gentle beauty against which the daughterless matron could not steel her heart. She melted in the space of a quarter of an hour, while Denzil was encouraging Henriette to over-eat herself, and trying to persuade Angela to taste this or that dainty, or reproaching her for taking so little; and by the time the child had finished her copious meal, Lady Warner was telling herself how dearly she might have loved this girl for a daughter-in-law, were it not for that fatal objection of a corrupt and pernicious creed.

No! Lovely as she was, modest, refined, and in all things worthy to be loved, the question of creed must be a stumbling-block. And then there were other objections. Rural gossip, the loose talk of servants, had brought a highly coloured description of Lady Fareham’s household to her neighbour’s ears. The extravagant splendour, the waste and idleness, the late hours, the worship of pleasure, the visiting, the singing, and dancing, and junketing, and worst of all, the too-indulgent friendship shown to a Parisian fopling, had formed the subject of conversation in many an assembly of pious ladies, and hands and eyebrows had been uplifted at the iniquities of Chilton Abbey, as second only to the monstrous goings-on of the Court at Oxford.

Almost ever since the Restoration Lady Warner had been living in meek expectancy of fire from heaven; and the chastisement of this memorable year had seemed to her the inevitable realisation of her fears. The fiery rain had come down — impalpable, invisible, leaving its deadly tokens in burning plague spots, the forerunners of death. That the contagion had mostly visited that humbler class of persons who had been strangers to the excesses and pleasures of the Court made nothing against Lady Warner’s conviction that this scourge was Heaven’s vengeance upon fashionable vice. Her son had brought her stories of the life at Whitehall, terrible pictures of iniquity, conveyed in the scathing words of one who sat apart, in a humble lodging, where for him the light of day came not, and heard with disgust and horror of that wave of debauchery which had swept over the city he loved, since the triumph of the Royalists. And Lady Warner had heard the words of Milton, and had listened with a reverence as profound as if the blind poet had been the prophet of Israel, alone in his place of hiding, holding himself aloof from an idolatrous monarch and a wicked people.

And now her son had brought her this fair girl, upon whom he had set his foolish hopes, a Papist, and the sister of a woman whose ways were the ways of —! A favourite scriptural substantive closed the sentence in Lady Warner’s mind.

No; it might not be. Whatever power she had over her son must be used against his Papistical syren. She would treat her with courtesy, show her house and dairy, and there an end. And so they repaired to the offices, with Papillon running backwards and forwards as they went along, exclaiming and questioning, delighted with the shining oak floors and great oak chests in the corridor, and the armour in the hall, where, as the sacred and central object, hung the breastplate Sir George Warner wore when he fell at Hopton Heath, dinted by sword and pike, as the enemy’s horse rode him down in the melée. His orange scarf, soiled and torn, was looped across the steel cuirass. Papillon admired everything, most of all the great cool dairy, which had once been a chapel, and where the piscina was converted to a niche for a polished brass milk-can, to the horror of Angela, who could say no word in praise of a place that had been created by the profanation of holy things. A chapel turned into a storehouse for milk and butter! Was this how Protestants valued consecrated places? An awe-stricken silence came upon her, and she was glad when Denzil remembered that they would have barely time to walk back to the Abbey before the two o’clock dinner.

“You keep Court hours even in the country,” said Lady Warner. “I dined half an hour before you came.”

“I don’t care if I have no dinner to-day,” said Papillon; “but I hope I shall be able to eat a mince pie. Why don’t you love mince pies, madam? He”— pointing to Denzil —“says you do not.”

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