The History of Henry Esmond, by William Makepeace Thackeray

Chapter VI.

The Issue of the Plots. — The Death of Thomas, Third Viscount of Castlewood; and the Imprisonment of His Viscountess.

At first my lady was for dying like Mary, Queen of Scots (to whom she fancied she bore a resemblance in beauty), and, stroking her scraggy neck, said, “They will find Isabel of Castlewood is equal to her fate.” Her gentlewoman, Victoire, persuaded her that her prudent course was, as she could not fly, to receive the troops as though she suspected nothing, and that her chamber was the best place wherein to await them. So her black Japan casket, which Harry was to carry to the coach, was taken back to her ladyship’s chamber, whither the maid and mistress retired. Victoire came out presently, bidding the page to say her ladyship was ill, confined to her bed with the rheumatism.

By this time the soldiers had reached Castlewood. Harry Esmond saw them from the window of the tapestry parlor; a couple of sentinels were posted at the gate — a half-dozen more walked towards the stable; and some others, preceded by their commander, and a man in black, a lawyer probably, were conducted by one of the servants to the stair leading up to the part of the house which my lord and lady inhabited.

So the Captain, a handsome kind man, and the lawyer, came through the ante-room to the tapestry parlor, and where now was nobody but young Harry Esmond, the page.

“Tell your mistress, little man,” says the Captain, kindly, “that we must speak to her.”

“My mistress is ill a-bed,” said the page.

“What complaint has she?” asked the Captain.

The boy said, “The rheumatism!”

“Rheumatism! that’s a sad complaint,” continues the good-natured Captain; “and the coach is in the yard to fetch the Doctor, I suppose?”

“I don’t know,” says the boy.

“And how long has her ladyship been ill?”

“I don’t know,” says the boy.

“When did my lord go away?”

“Yesterday night.”

“With Father Holt?”

“With Mr. Holt.”

“And which way did they travel?” asks the lawyer.

“They travelled without me,” says the page.

“We must see Lady Castlewood.”

“I have orders that nobody goes in to her ladyship — she is sick,” says the page; but at this moment Victoire came out. “Hush!” says she; and, as if not knowing that any one was near, “What’s this noise?” says she. “Is this gentleman the Doctor?”

“Stuff! we must see Lady Castlewood,” says the lawyer, pushing by.

The curtains of her ladyship’s room were down, and the chamber dark, and she was in bed with a nightcap on her head, and propped up by her pillows, looking none the less ghastly because of the red which was still on her cheeks, and which she could not afford to forego.

“Is that the Doctor?” she said.

“There is no use with this deception, madam,” Captain Westbury said (for so he was named). “My duty is to arrest the person of Thomas, Viscount Castlewood, a nonjuring peer — of Robert Tusher, Vicar of Castlewood — and Henry Holt, known under various other names and designations, a Jesuit priest, who officiated as chaplain here in the late king’s time, and is now at the head of the conspiracy which was about to break out in this country against the authority of their Majesties King William and Queen Mary — and my orders are to search the house for such papers or traces of the conspiracy as may be found here. Your ladyship will please give me your keys, and it will be as well for yourself that you should help us, in every way, in our search.”

“You see, sir, that I have the rheumatism, and cannot move,” said the lady, looking uncommonly ghastly as she sat up in her bed, where, however, she had had her cheeks painted, and a new cap put on, so that she might at least look her best when the officers came.

“I shall take leave to place a sentinel in the chamber, so that your ladyship, in case you should wish to rise, may have an arm to lean on,” Captain Westbury said. “Your woman will show me where I am to look;” and Madame Victoire, chattering in her half French and half English jargon, opened while the Captain examined one drawer after another; but, as Harry Esmond thought, rather carelessly, with a smile on his face, as if he was only conducting the examination for form’s sake.

Before one of the cupboards Victoire flung herself down, stretching out her arms, and, with a piercing shriek, cried, “Non, jamais, monsieur l’officier! Jamais! I will rather die than let you see this wardrobe.”

But Captain Westbury would open it, still with a smile on his face, which, when the box was opened, turned into a fair burst of laughter. It contained — not papers regarding the conspiracy — but my lady’s wigs, washes, and rouge-pots, and Victoire said men were monsters, as the Captain went on with his perquisition. He tapped the back to see whether or no it was hollow, and as he thrust his hands into the cupboard, my lady from her bed called out, with a voice that did not sound like that of a very sick woman, “Is it your commission to insult ladies as well as to arrest gentlemen, Captain?”

“These articles are only dangerous when worn by your ladyship,” the Captain said, with a low bow, and a mock grin of politeness. “I have found nothing which concerns the Government as yet — only the weapons with which beauty is authorized to kill,” says he, pointing to a wig with his sword-tip. “We must now proceed to search the rest of the house.”

“You are not going to leave that wretch in the room with me,” cried my lady, pointing to the soldier.

“What can I do, madam? Somebody you must have to smooth your pillow and bring your medicine — permit me —”

“Sir!” screamed out my lady.

“Madam, if you are too ill to leave the bed,” the Captain then said, rather sternly, “I must have in four of my men to lift you off in the sheet. I must examine this bed, in a word; papers may be hidden in a bed as elsewhere; we know that very well and . . .”

Here it was her ladyship’s turn to shriek, for the Captain, with his fist shaking the pillows and bolsters, at last came to “burn” as they say in the play of forfeits, and wrenching away one of the pillows, said, “Look! did not I tell you so? Here is a pillow stuffed with paper.”

“Some villain has betrayed us,” cried out my lady, sitting up in the bed, showing herself full dressed under her night-rail.

“And now your ladyship can move, I am sure; permit me to give you my hand to rise. You will have to travel for some distance, as far as Hexton Castle to-night. Will you have your coach? Your woman shall attend you if you like — and the japan-box?”

“Sir! you don’t strike a MAN when he is down,” said my lady, with some dignity: “can you not spare a woman?”

“Your ladyship must please to rise, and let me search the bed,” said the Captain; “there is no more time to lose in bandying talk.”

And, without more ado, the gaunt old woman got up. Harry Esmond recollected to the end of his life that figure, with the brocade dress and the white night-rail, and the gold-clocked red stockings, and white red-heeled shoes, sitting up in the bed, and stepping down from it. The trunks were ready packed for departure in her ante-room, and the horses ready harnessed in the stable: about all which the Captain seemed to know, by information got from some quarter or other; and whence Esmond could make a pretty shrewd guess in after-times, when Dr. Tusher complained that King William’s government had basely treated him for services done in that cause.

And here he may relate, though he was then too young to know all that was happening, what the papers contained, of which Captain Westbury had made a seizure, and which papers had been transferred from the japan-box to the bed when the officers arrived.

There was a list of gentlemen of the county in Father Holt’s hand writing — Mr. Freeman’s (King James’s) friends — a similar paper being found among those of Sir John Fenwick and Mr. Coplestone, who suffered death for this conspiracy.

There was a patent conferring the title of Marquis of Esmond on my Lord Castlewood and the heirs-male of his body; his appointment as Lord-Lieutenant of the County, and Major-General.2

2 To have this rank of Marquis restored in the family had always been my Lady Viscountess’s ambition; and her old maiden aunt, Barbara Topham, the goldsmith’s daughter, dying about this time, and leaving all her property to Lady Castlewood, I have heard that her ladyship sent almost the whole of the money to King James, a proceeding which so irritated my Lord Castlewood that he actually went to the parish church, and was only appeased by the Marquis’s title which his exiled Majesty sent to him in return for the 15,000L. his faithful subject lent him.

There were various letters from the nobility and gentry, some ardent and some doubtful, in the King’s service; and (very luckily for him) two letters concerning Colonel Francis Esmond: one from Father Holt, which said, “I have been to see this Colonel at his house at Walcote, near to Wells, where he resides since the King’s departure, and pressed him very eagerly in Mr. Freeman’s cause, showing him the great advantage he would have by trading with that merchant, offering him large premiums there as agreed between us. But he says no: he considers Mr. Freeman the head of the firm, will never trade against him or embark with any other trading company, but considers his duty was done when Mr. Freeman left England. This Colonel seems to care more for his wife and his beagles than for affairs. He asked me much about young H. E., ‘that bastard,’ as he called him; doubting my lord’s intentions respecting him. I reassured him on this head, stating what I knew of the lad, and our intentions respecting him, but with regard to Freeman he was inflexible.”

And another letter was from Colonel Esmond to his kinsman, to say that one Captain Holton had been with him offering him large bribes to join, YOU KNOW WHO, and saying that the head of the house of Castlewood was deeply engaged in that quarter. But for his part he had broke his sword when the K. left the country, and would never again fight in that quarrel. The P. of O. was a man, at least, of a noble courage, and his duty, and, as he thought, every Englishman’s, was to keep the country quiet, and the French out of it: and, in fine, that he would have nothing to do with the scheme.

Of the existence of these two letters and the contents of the pillow, Colonel Frank Esmond, who became Viscount Castlewood, told Henry Esmond afterwards, when the letters were shown to his lordship, who congratulated himself, as he had good reason, that he had not joined in the scheme which proved so fatal to many concerned in it. But, naturally, the lad knew little about these circumstances when they happened under his eyes: only being aware that his patron and his mistress were in some trouble, which had caused the flight of the one and the apprehension of the other by the officers of King William.

The seizure of the papers effected, the gentlemen did not pursue their further search through Castlewood House very rigorously. They examined Mr. Holt’s room, being led thither by his pupil, who showed, as the Father had bidden him, the place where the key of his chamber lay, opened the door for the gentlemen, and conducted them into the room.

When the gentlemen came to the half-burned papers in the brazier, they examined them eagerly enough, and their young guide was a little amused at their perplexity.

“What are these?” says one.

“They’re written in a foreign language,” says the lawyer. “What are you laughing at, little whelp?” adds he, turning round as he saw the boy smile.

“Mr. Holt said they were sermons,” Harry said, “and bade me to burn them;” which indeed was true of those papers.

“Sermons indeed — it’s treason, I would lay a wager,” cries the lawyer.

“Egad! it’s Greek to me,” says Captain Westbury. “Can you read it, little boy?”

“Yes, sir, a little,” Harry said.

“Then read, and read in English, sir, on your peril,” said the lawyer. And Harry began to translate:—

“Hath not one of your own writers said, ‘The children of Adam are now laboring as much as he himself ever did, about the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, shaking the boughs thereof, and seeking the fruit, being for the most part unmindful of the tree of life.’ Oh blind generation! ’tis this tree of knowledge to which the serpent has led you”— and here the boy was obliged to stop, the rest of the page being charred by the fire: and asked of the lawyer —“Shall I go on, sir?”

The lawyer said —“This boy is deeper than he seems: who knows that he is not laughing at us?”

“Let’s have in Dick the Scholar,” cried Captain Westbury, laughing: and he called to a trooper out of the window —“Ho, Dick, come in here and construe.”

A thick-set soldier, with a square good-humored face, came in at the summons, saluting his officer.

“Tell us what is this, Dick,” says the lawyer.

“My name is Steele, sir,” says the soldier. “I may be Dick for my friends, but I don’t name gentlemen of your cloth amongst them.”

“Well then, Steele.”

“Mr. Steele, sir, if you please. When you address a gentleman of his Majesty’s Horse Guards, be pleased not to be so familiar.”

“I didn’t know, sir,” said the lawyer.

“How should you? I take it you are not accustomed to meet with gentlemen,” says the trooper.

“Hold thy prate, and read that bit of paper,” says Westbury.

“’Tis Latin,” says Dick, glancing at it, and again saluting his officer, “and from a sermon of Mr. Cudworth’s,” and he translated the words pretty much as Henry Esmond had rendered them.

“What a young scholar you are,” says the Captain to the boy.

“Depend on’t, he knows more than he tells,” says the lawyer. “I think we will pack him off in the coach with old Jezebel.”

“For construing a bit of Latin?” said the Captain, very good-naturedly.

“I would as lief go there as anywhere,” Harry Esmond said, simply, “for there is nobody to care for me.”

There must have been something touching in the child’s voice, or in this description of his solitude — for the Captain looked at him very good-naturedly, and the trooper, called Steele, put his hand kindly on the lad’s head, and said some words in the Latin tongue.

“What does he say?” says the lawyer.

“Faith, ask Dick himself,” cried Captain Westbury.

“I said I was not ignorant of misfortune myself, and had learned to succor the miserable, and that’s not YOUR trade, Mr. Sheepskin,” said the trooper.

“You had better leave Dick the Scholar alone, Mr. Corbet,” the Captain said. And Harry Esmond, always touched by a kind face and kind word, felt very grateful to this good-natured champion.

The horses were by this time harnessed to the coach; and the Countess and Victoire came down and were put into the vehicle. This woman, who quarrelled with Harry Esmond all day, was melted at parting with him, and called him “dear angel,” and “poor infant,” and a hundred other names.

The Viscountess, giving him her lean hand to kiss, bade him always be faithful to the house of Esmond. “If evil should happen to my lord,” says she, “his SUCCESSOR, I trust, will be found, and give you protection. Situated as I am, they will not dare wreak their vengeance on me NOW.” And she kissed a medal she wore with great fervor, and Henry Esmond knew not in the least what her meaning was; but hath since learned that, old as she was, she was for ever expecting, by the good offices of saints and relics, to have an heir to the title of Esmond.

Harry Esmond was too young to have been introduced into the secrets of politics in which his patrons were implicated; for they put but few questions to the boy (who was little of stature, and looked much younger than his age), and such questions as they put he answered cautiously enough, and professing even more ignorance than he had, for which his examiners willingly enough gave him credit. He did not say a word about the window or the cupboard over the fireplace; and these secrets quite escaped the eyes of the searchers.

So then my lady was consigned to her coach, and sent off to Hexton, with her woman and the man of law to bear her company, a couple of troopers riding on either side of the coach. And Harry was left behind at the Hall, belonging as it were to nobody, and quite alone in the world. The captain and a guard of men remained in possession there; and the soldiers, who were very good-natured and kind, ate my lord’s mutton and drank his wine, and made themselves comfortable, as they well might do in such pleasant quarters.

The captains had their dinner served in my lord’s tapestry parlor, and poor little Harry thought his duty was to wait upon Captain Westbury’s chair, as his custom had been to serve his lord when he sat there.

After the departure of the Countess, Dick the Scholar took Harry Esmond under his special protection, and would examine him in his humanities and talk to him both of French and Latin, in which tongues the lad found, and his new friend was willing enough to acknowledge, that he was even more proficient than Scholar Dick. Hearing that he had learned them from a Jesuit, in the praise of whom and whose goodness Harry was never tired of speaking, Dick, rather to the boy’s surprise, who began to have an early shrewdness, like many children bred up alone, showed a great deal of theological science, and knowledge of the points at issue between the two churches; so that he and Harry would have hours of controversy together, in which the boy was certainly worsted by the arguments of this singular trooper. “I am no common soldier,” Dick would say, and indeed it was easy to see by his learning, breeding, and many accomplishments, that he was not. “I am of one of the most ancient families in the empire; I have had my education at a famous school, and a famous university; I learned my first rudiments of Latin near to Smithfield, in London, where the martyrs were roasted.”

“You hanged as many of ours,” interposed Harry; “and, for the matter of persecution, Father Holt told me that a young gentleman of Edinburgh, eighteen years of age, student at the college there, was hanged for heresy only last year, though he recanted, and solemnly asked pardon for his errors.”

“Faith! there has been too much persecution on both sides: but ’twas you taught us.”

“Nay, ’twas the Pagans began it,” cried the lad, and began to instance a number of saints of the Church, from the proto-martyr downwards —“this one’s fire went out under him: that one’s oil cooled in the caldron: at a third holy head the executioner chopped three times and it would not come off. Show us martyrs in YOUR church for whom such miracles have been done.”

“Nay,” says the trooper gravely, “the miracles of the first three centuries belong to my Church as well as yours, Master Papist,” and then added, with something of a smile upon his countenance, and a queer look at Harry —“And yet, my little catechiser, I have sometimes thought about those miracles, that there was not much good in them, since the victim’s head always finished by coming off at the third or fourth chop, and the caldron, if it did not boil one day, boiled the next. Howbeit, in our times, the Church has lost that questionable advantage of respites. There never was a shower to put out Ridley’s fire, nor an angel to turn the edge of Campion’s axe. The rack tore the limbs of Southwell the Jesuit and Sympson the Protestant alike. For faith, everywhere multitudes die willingly enough. I have read in Monsieur Rycaut’s ‘History of the Turks,’ of thousands of Mahomet’s followers rushing upon death in battle as upon certain Paradise; and in the great Mogul’s dominions people fling themselves by hundreds under the cars of the idols annually, and the widows burn themselves on their husbands’ bodies, as ’tis well known. ’Tis not the dying for a faith that’s so hard, Master Harry — every man of every nation has done that —’tis the living up to it that is difficult, as I know to my cost,” he added with a sigh. “And ah!” he added, “my poor lad, I am not strong enough to convince thee by my life — though to die for my religion would give me the greatest of joys — but I had a dear friend in Magdalen College in Oxford; I wish Joe Addison were here to convince thee, as he quickly could — for I think he’s a match for the whole College of Jesuits; and what’s more, in his life too. In that very sermon of Dr. Cudworth’s which your priest was quoting from, and which suffered martydom in the brazier,”— Dick added with a smile, “I had a thought of wearing the black coat (but was ashamed of my life, you see, and took to this sorry red one); I have often thought of Joe Addison — Dr. Cudworth says, ‘A good conscience is the best looking-glass of heaven’— and there’s serenity in my friend’s face which always reflects it — I wish you could see him, Harry.”

“Did he do you a great deal of good?” asked the lad, simply.

“He might have done,” said the other —“at least he taught me to see and approve better things. ’Tis my own fault, deteriora sequi.”

“You seem very good,” the boy said.

“I’m not what I seem, alas!” answered the trooper — and indeed, as it turned out, poor Dick told the truth — for that very night, at supper in the hall, where the gentlemen of the troop took their repasts, and passed most part of their days dicing and smoking of tobacco, and singing and cursing, over the Castlewood ale — Harry Esmond found Dick the Scholar in a woful state of drunkenness. He hiccupped out a sermon and his laughing companions bade him sing a hymn, on which Dick, swearing he would run the scoundrel through the body who insulted his religion, made for his sword, which was hanging on the wall, and fell down flat on the floor under it, saying to Harry, who ran forward to help him, “Ah, little Papist, I wish Joseph Addison was here!”

Though the troopers of the King’s Life-Guards were all gentlemen, yet the rest of the gentlemen seemed ignorant and vulgar boors to Harry Esmond, with the exception of this good-natured Corporal Steele the Scholar, and Captain Westbury and Lieutenant Trant, who were always kind to the lad. They remained for some weeks or months encamped in Castlewood, and Harry learned from them, from time to time, how the lady at Hexton Castle was treated, and the particulars of her confinement there. ’Tis known that King William was disposed to deal very leniently with the gentry who remained faithful to the old King’s cause; and no prince usurping a crown, as his enemies said he did, (righteously taking it, as I think now,) ever caused less blood to be shed. As for women-conspirators, he kept spies on the least dangerous, and locked up the others. Lady Castlewood had the best rooms in Hexton Castle, and the gaoler’s garden to walk in; and though she repeatedly desired to be led out to execution, like Mary Queen of Scots, there never was any thought of taking her painted old head off, or any desire to do aught but keep her person in security.

And it appeared she found that some were friends in her misfortune, whom she had, in her prosperity, considered as her worst enemies. Colonel Francis Esmond, my lord’s cousin and her ladyship’s, who had married the Dean of Winchester’s daughter, and, since King James’s departure out of England, had lived not very far away from Hexton town, hearing of his kinswoman’s strait, and being friends with Colonel Brice, commanding for King William in Hexton, and with the Church dignitaries there, came to visit her ladyship in prison, offering to his uncle’s daughter any friendly services which lay in his power. And he brought his lady and little daughter to see the prisoner, to the latter of whom, a child of great beauty and many winning ways, the old Viscountess took not a little liking, although between her ladyship and the child’s mother there was little more love than formerly. There are some injuries which women never forgive one another; and Madam Francis Esmond, in marrying her cousin, had done one of those irretrievable wrongs to Lady Castlewood. But as she was now humiliated, and in misfortune, Madam Francis could allow a truce to her enmity, and could be kind for a while, at least, to her husband’s discarded mistress. So the little Beatrix, her daughter, was permitted often to go and visit the imprisoned Viscountess, who, in so far as the child and its father were concerned, got to abate in her anger towards that branch of the Castlewood family. And the letters of Colonel Esmond coming to light, as has been said, and his conduct being known to the King’s council, the Colonel was put in a better position with the existing government than he had ever before been; any suspicions regarding his loyalty were entirely done away; and so he was enabled to be of more service to his kinswoman than he could otherwise have been.

And now there befell an event by which this lady recovered her liberty, and the house of Castlewood got a new owner, and fatherless little Harry Esmond a new and most kind protector and friend. Whatever that secret was which Harry was to hear from my lord, the boy never heard it; for that night when Father Holt arrived, and carried my lord away with him, was the last on which Harry ever saw his patron. What happened to my lord may be briefly told here. Having found the horses at the place where they were lying, my lord and Father Holt rode together to Chatteris, where they had temporary refuge with one of the Father’s penitents in that city; but the pursuit being hot for them, and the reward for the apprehension of one or the other considerable, it was deemed advisable that they should separate; and the priest betook himself to other places of retreat known to him, whilst my lord passed over from Bristol into Ireland, in which kingdom King James had a court and an army. My lord was but a small addition to this; bringing, indeed, only his sword and the few pieces in his pocket; but the King received him with some kindness and distinction in spite of his poor plight, confirmed him in his new title of Marquis, gave him a regiment, and promised him further promotion. But titles or promotion were not to benefit him now. My lord was wounded at the fatal battle of the Boyne, flying from which field (long after his master had set him an example) he lay for a while concealed in the marshy country near to the town of Trim, and more from catarrh and fever caught in the bogs than from the steel of the enemy in the battle, sank and died. May the earth lie light upon Thomas of Castlewood! He who writes this must speak in charity, though this lord did him and his two grievous wrongs: for one of these he would have made amends, perhaps, had life been spared him; but the other lay beyond his power to repair, though ’tis to be hoped that a greater Power than a priest has absolved him of it. He got the comfort of this absolution, too, such as it was: a priest of Trim writing a letter to my lady to inform her of this calamity.

But in those days letters were slow of travelling, and our priest’s took two months or more on its journey from Ireland to England: where, when it did arrive, it did not find my lady at her own house; she was at the King’s house of Hexton Castle when the letter came to Castlewood, but it was opened for all that by the officer in command there.

Harry Esmond well remembered the receipt of this letter, which Lockwood brought in as Captain Westbury and Lieutenant Trant were on the green playing at bowls, young Esmond looking on at the sport, or reading his book in the arbor.

“Here’s news for Frank Esmond,” says Captain Westbury; “Harry, did you ever see Colonel Esmond?” And Captain Westbury looked very hard at the boy as he spoke.

Harry said he had seen him but once when he was at Hexton, at the ball there.

“And did he say anything?”

“He said what I don’t care to repeat,” Harry answered. For he was now twelve years of age: he knew what his birth was, and the disgrace of it; and he felt no love towards the man who had most likely stained his mother’s honor and his own.

“Did you love my Lord Castlewood?”

“I wait until I know my mother, sir, to say,” the boy answered, his eyes filling with tears.

“Something has happened to Lord Castlewood,” Captain Westbury said in a very grave tone —“something which must happen to us all. He is dead of a wound received at the Boyne, fighting for King James.”

“I am glad my lord fought for the right cause,” the boy said.

“It was better to meet death on the field like a man, than face it on Tower-hill, as some of them may,” continued Mr. Westbury. “I hope he has made some testament, or provided for thee somehow. This letter says he recommends unicum filium suum dilectissimum to his lady. I hope he has left you more than that.”

Harry did not know, he said. He was in the hands of Heaven and Fate; but more lonely now, as it seemed to him, than he had been all the rest of his life; and that night, as he lay in his little room which he still occupied, the boy thought with many a pang of shame and grief of his strange and solitary condition: how he had a father and no father; a nameless mother that had been brought to ruin, perhaps, by that very father whom Harry could only acknowledge in secret and with a blush, and whom he could neither love nor revere. And he sickened to think how Father Holt, a stranger, and two or three soldiers, his acquaintances of the last six weeks, were the only friends he had in the great wide world, where he was now quite alone. The soul of the boy was full of love, and he longed as he lay in the darkness there for some one upon whom he could bestow it. He remembers, and must to his dying day, the thoughts and tears of that long night, the hours tolling through it. Who was he, and what? Why here rather than elsewhere? I have a mind, he thought, to go to that priest at Trim, and find out what my father said to him on his death-bed confession. Is there any child in the whole world so unprotected as I am? Shall I get up and quit this place, and run to Ireland? With these thoughts and tears the lad passed that night away until he wept himself to sleep.

The next day, the gentlemen of the guard, who had heard what had befallen him, were more than usually kind to the child, especially his friend Scholar Dick, who told him about his own father’s death, which had happened when Dick was a child at Dublin, not quite five years of age. “That was the first sensation of grief,” Dick said, “I ever knew. I remember I went into the room where his body lay, and my mother sat weeping beside it. I had my battledore in my hand, and fell a-beating the coffin, and calling Papa; on which my mother caught me in her arms, and told me in a flood of tears Papa could not hear me, and would play with me no more, for they were going to put him under ground, whence he could never come to us again. And this,” said Dick kindly, “has made me pity all children ever since; and caused me to love thee, my poor fatherless, motherless lad. And, if ever thou wantest a friend, thou shalt have one in Richard Steele.”

Harry Esmond thanked him, and was grateful. But what could Corporal Steele do for him? take him to ride a spare horse, and be servant to the troop? Though there might be a bar in Harry Esmond’s shield, it was a noble one. The counsel of the two friends was, that little Harry should stay where he was, and abide his fortune: so Esmond stayed on at Castlewood, awaiting with no small anxiety the fate, whatever it was, which was over him.

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Last updated Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 19:07