It was in the year of grace seventen hundred and ten that Lord Derwentwater, who had been living abroad from childhood, returned to his native country. He was then in his twenty-first year, having been born on the 28th of June, 1689, being a year younger than the Prince, his cousin, whose education he shared, and whose playfellow he was. To one of those who welcomed him back —— a woman —— it will always seem as if her life had something of meanness in it before he came. Until then, she knew not what was meant by the manners and airs which are learned only at such Courts as those of Versailles and St. James’s; nor did she know before how splendid a being is a man who, besides being master of all the manly accomplishments, as most of the Northumberland gentlemen are, also possesses the language of gallantry, the manners of a courtier, and the youth and beauty of Apollo. I can but own —— why should I be ashamed to own it? —— that the admiration which I felt for my lord at the very first appearance and beholding of him, only increased the oftener I saw him and the more I conversed with him. Sure I am that Heaven hath nowhere bestowed upon this generation so goodly and virtuous a nobleman. Yet was he granted to us to gladden our hearts and set us an example of benevolence, courtesy, majesty, and good breeding for five short years. Thus are the greatest blessings granted to mankind (if I may be permitted so to speak of the Heavenly Scheme) with sparing and jealous hands.
It was by way of the Low Countries that the Earl returned to England, because the Long War, although it was drawing to a close, was still raging. Indeed, it was but a short while since the famous battle of Malplaquet, where the vanquished suffered not half so much loss as the victors, and our valiant Prince charged twelve times with the French regiment of Household Troops. Lord Derwentwater was accompanied only by his two brothers, Francis and Charles, the latter of whom was but a lad of sixteen, and his gentleman, Mr. Welby (afterwards hanged at Liverpool). He was met in London by his uncle, Colonel Thomas Radcliffe, and his cousin, Mr. Fenwick of Bywell (a near relation of the unhappy man who slew Mr. Ferdinando). As for the Colonel, who lived for the most part at Radcliffe House, in Newcastle, he was a most worthy and honourable gentleman, but subject to a strange infirmity. For he imagined that he was being constantly pursued by an enemy armed with a sword, so that when he walked abroad he constantly looked behind him, and when he sat at table he would suddenly spring to his feet and lay hand upon his sword; and at night he would leap from his bed, try the locks and bars of his door, and throw open the window. For this reason he went to Newcastle by water, a method of travelling which gave him the greatest content, because on board ship he fancied himself safe, except from pirates. It was resolved that, though no secret should be made as to the Earl’s arrival, there should be no stay in London, to avoid the danger of his being drawn into some rash design or engagement. For it was his friends’ anxious desire that while it should be very well understood that he was the faithful and loyal supporter of the Prince, he was to have no hand in any plots, and was not to move until success was assured.
They were joined in London also by Mr. Henry Howard, a Catholic priest, and cousin to the Duke of Norfolk (would that all priests were like unto this venerable and godly man!). And though they rode straight north, they made not so much haste but that news of their arrival reached the north before they got as far as York; and it was resolved by many of the gentlemen, especially his cousins, to give him welcome at Dilston Hall. As for us, we were doubly his cousins, both by our ancestor, Sir John, who married Jane Radcliffe, widow of Lord Ogle, and his son Nicolas, who married another Jane Radcliffe, heiress of Blanchland.
‘Who should go to welcome him if not I, his cousin and near neighbour?’ said Tom. (He was now become quite easy in his mind as regards his own circumstances, and secure of the brilliant succession with which Mr. Hilyard had inflamed his mind.) ‘And, if I go, why not you as well, Dorothy?’
You may judge of the joy with which I heard these words. But it was a great undertaking, and needed much consideration, which we entrusted to Mr. Hilyard. He finally resolved for us that we should go, and that we should seize the occasion to spend the whole year at Blanchland, where we might, at least, live retired, and at small charge, the place being eight or nine miles from any neighbours, and in the middle of a wild moor. I think —— nay, I am quite sure —— that Mr. Hilyard’s desire that Tom should spend no money was greater than his wish to greet the Earl, for, though he complained not, it fell to his lot to ask her ladyship for supplies, and to receive the rebukes for prodigality with which she sometimes answered his letters.
My heart was light at the prospect of so great a journey and the sight of strange places, to say nothing of giving a welcome to the young lord. I cared nothing for the cold wind of February, and the driving sleet and snow in which we began our journey. To me, though the snow lay in piles about the brambles and the bushes, and the wind blew from the north-east, and one’s fingers froze, and one’s feet in the saddle lost all feeling, the journey was delightful. We were a great party, having with us a whole troop of pack-horses laden with guns, fishing-tackle, clothes, and so forth. There were also Tom’s dogs and hounds, his second riding-horse, his grooms, his own man (who shaved him, dressed his wig, and kept his clothes), Mr. Hilyard, and my maid, Jenny Lee. So that we were like a small army, and made, in fact, almost as little progress as an army in motion. The first night we lay at our own house (but it was now Lord Crewe’s) at Alnwick; the second we lay at Rothbury, a pleasant town on the Coquet; on the third at Capheaton Castle, where we were hospitably entertained, though Sir William had already gone two days before to Dilston with her ladyship. On the fourth we rode into Hexham.
In this ancient town, which I now saw for the first time, we found gathered together a goodly company of gentlemen, assembled for the purpose of giving the Earl a hearty welcome home. The street was full of them and of their servants. They stood about the doors of the inns; they drank and sang in little companies. A group of the better sort were gathered in the open square between the church and the old town, where they talked and welcomed new-comers. Lord Widdrington, with his brothers, was reported to be at Beaufront with Mr. Errington; Sir William and Lady Swinburne, with half-a-dozen of the Swinburne brothers, the Ladies Katharine and Mary Radcliffe, and many other cousins, were at Dilston Hall. In Hexham there were Shaftoes, Claverings, Chorleys, Gibsons, and many more. Mad Jack Hall was among them, shouting and vapouring. High over the heads of the crowd towered the great form of Frank Stokoe, six inches taller than any other man in Northumberland. He was not only the tallest, but also the strongest, man in the county. He could crush pewter pots in his hand; he could pull against two horses, lift a couple of hundredweight with his little finger, stop a cart against a runaway horse, bend iron bars across his arm, and break pence with his fingers. Once he lifted a constable asleep, box and all, and dropped him over the wall into a burying-place. He lived at Chesterwood, near Haydon Bridge, and not far from Lord Derwentwater’s Castle of Langley, which lies in ruins these three hundred years, and is like, Heaven knows, to continue in that same evil plight for as many more. Also there were present certain gentlemen —— birds of ill omen, Mr. Hilyard called them, always imploring his patron to keep aloof from them, hold no communication with them, and not suffer himself to be enticed into correspondence with them. These are the men who ensnare honest and loyal gentlemen by making them combine, without their knowledge, in conspiracies and plots destined only to failure. Each premature plot, when detected and put down, costs the lives of some of these mischievous men; but the devil speedily raises up others to do his work, lest the wickedness of the world should go less.
Now, as we rode into the crowd, some of the gentlemen shook hands with Tom; and others greeted me with such compliments as they knew how to make (they were kindly meant; but I was soon to learn the true language of gallantry); and others shouted a welcome to lusty Tony (it is a shame that so great a scholar should consent to such a name), whose appearance and shining countenance promised an evening of merriment. Presently, looking about among the throng, I became aware of a person whom I had never before seen, in cassock and bands, and the most enormous great wig I had ever seen, reminding one of the lines:
‘His wig was so bushy, so long, and so fair, The best part of man was quite covered with hair; That he looked, as a body may modestly speak it, Like a calf with bald face peeping out of a thicket.’ His eyes were close together, which, I suppose, was the cause of his looking shifty and sly —— pigs have such eyes; his nose, like his cheeks, was fat; and his lips were thick and full. Unless his face belied him, he was one of those who loved the sacred profession for the life of ease and the fat eating which may be procured by the fortunate and the swinish. Miserable man! Yet still he lives and still he preaches, his conscience being seared with a hot iron. Thank Heaven! he is not an enemy of myself, but of my brother; therefore, I am not called upon to forgive him. Indeed, it is only a Christian’s duty to regard such as him with abhorrence, as one abhors the devil and all his works.
He was going about with an appearance of great bustle and business, as if everything depended upon himself, whispering to one man, holding another earnestly by the button, taking a pinch of snuff from another with an air of haste. Presently he advanced to us, bowing at every step.
‘Sir,’ he said to Tom, ‘I venture to present myself to your honour. I am the Vicar of Allenhead, your worship’s nearest neighbour when you honour Blanchland with a visit; and I venture to call myself one of the right party. Sir, I rejoice to find that you are here with so many noble gentlemen to welcome my Lord of Derwentwater. As for me, my motto is, and still will be, “The right of the first-born is his;” and, if it need more words, “Take away the wicked from before the king.” My name, sir, at your service, is Robert Patten, Artium Magister, and formerly of Lincoln College, Oxford, and —— O Lord! ——’
For he started back as one who has trodden upon an adder at least, and with a face suddenly pale with fright or astonishment, I know not which. Then I perceived that the cause of his alarm was none other than the sight of Mr. Hilyard. He, for his part, was looking down upon his reverence from his horse with a face as full of disdain and indignation as you can expect from a countenance naturally inclined for charity with all men. Mr. Hilyard could change his face at will when he wished to personate the sterner emotions in acting and make-believe, but, which is a truly wonderful thing, when he was in earnest, and actually felt those passions of scorn or wrath, his face failed to convey them.
‘If,’ he said presently, ‘the Prince’s cause hath pleased Bob Patten, we have got a brave recruit indeed, and are finely sped.’
At which the other plucked up courage, and, setting his band straight, replied:
‘I know not, Mr. Hilyard, what may be your present business in the north. I pray it be honest. Nay, sir,’ shrinking and putting up his hand, for Mr. Hilyard made as if he would strike at him with his whip —— ‘nay, sir, remember the cloth! Besides, I meant no harm. Respect the cloth, I pray you, sir! Indeed, I am sure from your company that it must be honest at least, and I hope respectable. Wherefore, all that passed in Oxford may be forgiven.’
‘Forgiven!’ cried Mr. Hilyard, in a great heat, ‘how dare you talk of forgiving? As for all that passed at Oxford, proclaim it aloud an you will; I have no call to be ashamed of it. But if you speak of forgiving, by the Lord I shall forget your sacred profession, and remember only what you were!’
‘Gentlemen,’ said Tom, speaking with authority, ‘let us have no quarrels to-day. Command me, Mr. Patten, if I can serve you in any way. Meanwhile, there will be a bowl of punch towards nine, if your cloth permits.’
‘Oh, sir!’ replied Mr. Patten, bowing, and spreading his hands. Ah! crocodile! as if thy cloth was ever guard against punch, or any other temptation!
Now that evening was spent in festivity, with singing and drinking, at which none of the gentlemen remained sober except Mr. Hilyard, who helped to carry his patron to bed, and did him the kindly office of loosening his cravat, adjusting his pillows, and pulling off his shoes. I know not if the gentlemen of the north be more prone to drink than those of the south, perhaps not; in either case there was the excuse for these hearty topers that on the next day they were to welcome home the noblest man of them all. And as for Mr. Patten, he slept where he fell. As for me, I went to bed betimes, but not to sleep, for the streets were full of men who went up and down —— they were the servants and grooms, and were as loyal and as tipsy as their masters. And when I fell asleep at last, it was to unquiet dreams, in which I was haunted by hoarse voices singing loyal songs.
The morning of the day when I was first to see Lord Derwentwater broke cold and rainy. But as the day advanced the clouds blew over, and we had that rare thing in February, a bright, cloudless, and sunny day. What mattered a cold and a sharp wind? Northumberland, the brave old county, would show at her best, despite the winter season. Often I think that winter hath charms of its own, especially in the woods, though the poets have resolved on singing the praise of spring and summer. It is true that there are no flowers and few birds; yet when the dead leaves hang, that is, where the trees stand thick, there are all kinds of pleasant colours. One who had travelled much in America once assured Mr. Hilyard that in the autumn and early winter the forests are all ablaze with crimson, yellow and red leaves of the maple tree (from which also he pretends that they make sugar, but one may not believe all traveller’s tales). There are places in Northumberland, and especially in the hanging woods beside the Tyne, where this beauty of winter leaves may also be observed. Methinks it is also a beautiful thing to watch the snow upon the branches, each one seeming like a stick of ice, and all together showing like the finest lace of Valenciennes. The contemplation of things beautiful fills the heart with joy, and raises the mind to heaven; but we simple women are slow and imperfect of speech; it needs such a poet as Milton (whom most of all I love, now that youth and joy are past) to put into words the meaning of our thoughts. However, I was glad and thankful that such a day had been vouchsafed for my lord’s return, nothing doubting but that his heart, too, would be uplifted on seeing his own woods and towers lying in the light of such a sun and such a clear blue sky.
We observed no order or time in setting forth. Some of the younger gentlemen mounted after breakfast and rode off along the road to Newcastle, intending to meet my lord’s party early; others went off leisurely, proposing to halt at Dilston, two miles or so from Hexham. We, for our part, waited till after dinner, judging that the Earl would not arrive before three o’clock at earliest.
Mr. Patten, whom I disliked from the first, perhaps because Mr. Hilyard regarded him with so much aversion, rode with us. That is to say, he rode beside Mr. Hilyard and behind us, but as if he belonged to our party. This is the way with those who desire to increase their own importance; they pretend to friendship with one man in order to obtain the patronage of another. By riding with Mr. Forster, the man Patten gave himself an excuse for welcoming a nobleman with whom he had no manner of concern or business.
When we had ridden past the bridge at Dilston, where there was a great concourse of people waiting, we left Mr. Patten behind, but we were joined by old Mr. Errington, of Beaufront, a wise and prudent gentleman, whose counsels ought to have guided the party five years later, but he was overruled. We naturally talked of the young Earl.
‘I am very sure, Tom,’ said Mr. Errington, ‘that we have in my lord a pillar of strength. He will be to the loyal gentlemen of the north as much as the Duke of Argyll to the Whigs of Scotland. I have it on the best authority that, although brought up in France, he is an Englishman; though a Catholic, like myself, he is as zealous for liberty as you can be; an adherent of the Prince, yet one who desires not violence, but rather the return of the nation to common-sense and loyalty; one who will conciliate and bind all of us together, so that we shall become a solid party, and in the end triumph even in the House of Commons.’
This, in the year 1710, was the earnest prayer of all moderate men and those who had much to lose.
‘With submission, sir,’ said Mr. Hilyard, ‘I would ask what advices your honour hath received respecting the temper of London?’
‘Nothing, Mr. Hilyard, but what is good. The Queen is well disposed towards her brother; the Tories are confident; there is talk of a peace; the Whigs and Dissenters are terrified. But our time may not come yet’.
‘The will of London,’ said Mr. Hilyard, ‘is the will of the nation’.
‘And, if fight we must,’ Tom cried, ‘the Earl can raise a thousand men’.
‘We shall not fight,’ said Mr. Errington. ‘We will have a bloodless revolution, such a Restoration as that of King Charles II., when he rode from Dover to London through a lane of rejoicing face. I know not, Mr. Hilyard, that London is so powerful as you would have us believe. But already the country is with us, and the clergy, as in duty bound. And the most that either party can say of the towns is that they are divided’.
A bloodless Restoration! It was, as I said, the dream of the better sort. But the Catholics forgot the terror of the Smithfield fires, which the people will never forget, from generation to generation, so long as England remains a country. The martyrs have made it impossible for a Papist ever again to rule over us.
‘As for us,’ said Mr. Errington, ‘we know very well, and do not disguise from ourselves, that in the present temper of the people the Prince, when he returns, must choose his Ministers and advisers, not from ourselves, but from his Protestant supporters. Lord Derwentwater may remain his Sovereign’s private friend, but can never become a member of his Government. It is to you, Tom, and such as you, that the King must turn’.
‘It is what I am always telling Mr. Forster,’ said Mr. Hilyard.
Mr. Forster replied, with a blush of satisfaction and the gravity which the subject demanded, that he was very much of Mr. Errington’s opinion that, whether he himself should be found competent to become a Minister or not, a Protestant country must have a Protestant Ministry, and that, begging Mr. Errington’s pardon, when the priest walks in, the King and his people fall out.
So we rode along slowly, for the way is none of the best, in such discourse, until about three o’clock or so, and a mile or two beyond Dilston, we heard a great shouting; and pricking our horses, we presently came upon a party of those who had ridden on before. They were now drawn up in a double line, and beyond this, his hat in his hand, my lord himself rode in advance of his party to meet his friends. No prince or sovereign in Europe but would have been moved and gratified by so noble a reception as the young nobleman received from the gentlemen who had thus ridden forth to meet him.
The path at this place is but a beaten track over the turf and level ground south of the river, which is here broad and shallow, with islets and long tongues of sand; there was an old angler in midstream, with rod and fly, careless (or perhaps he was deaf) of what this great shouting might mean, which he seemed not to hear. The ground is flat and covered with a rough coarse grass; southward rise the gentle hills, clothed with the woods which everywhere, except on the moors and the Cheviots, enrich the landskip of Northumberland, and form its boast. It was on this field that we received my lord.
It is nearly five-and-twenty years ago. If Lord Derwentwater were living, he would now be a man of forty-six, still in the full force and vigour of his manhood. Would he still remember (but he must) that afternoon in February, when, with his hat off, and the setting sun full in his face, making it shine like the face of Moses upon the mountain, he rode through that lane of gentlemen? As for myself, I saw more than I expected in my dreams. He was always the Prince of a fairy story; such as was the Childy Wynd, who transformed the loathly Worm of Spindleston, so was he; or as King Arthur sitting under Dunstanburgh, ever young and glorious, so was he. But the Prince of my dreams was a plain country gentleman, and before me was a gentleman of a kind I had never imagined, more courtly, more handsome, more splendid. There are some men who are called handsome by reason of a certain uniformity of feature (such as may be carved with a chisel out of a piece of stone); there are many who for a single good feature, a straight nose, the pleasing curve of a mouth, an agreeable smile, a bright eye, may be very justly called pretty fellows. But all alike were agreed in calling Lord Derwentwater the handsomest of men. There are also some men, but very few, to whom has been given that remarkable gift of commanding admiration, of compelling affection, and establishing firm confidence at the very first aspect and appearance of them. Such was my lord. For my own part, I know of no other man of all those who have lived in this eighteenth century, whose face is so well remembered even twenty years and more after his death. Why, there is not a woman, over thirty, within twenty miles of Dilston or Hexham, who, at the mere mention of his name or recollection of his face, doth not instantly fetch a sigh and drop a tear in memory of the handsome lord.
For those who never had the fortune to see him in the flesh, it is necessary to state that his face was full, with features well proportioned; his nose long and finely cut; his eyes grey of colour, and large (the large eye, they say, betokens the generous heart); I have myself seen those eyes so full of love, pity, and tenderness, that it makes the memory of them fill my own with tears. His forehead was high and square —— Mr. Hilyard says that men with such foreheads, when they are born in humble circumstances, take to study, and become philosophers, theologians, and great scholars, instancing his own forehead as an example, which is broad indeed, but lacking the dignity which sat upon the brow of the young Earl. His chin was round and large —— a small chin, or a chin which falls back, says Mr. Hilyard, is a sign of weakness and irresolution; a deserter, coward, runaway, or informer should be painted with a retreating chin (Mr. Patten’s chin was such, which proves the statement). As for my lord’s lips, they were firm and well set, yet of the kind which betray passion and agitation of the mind, so that those who knew him well could at all times read in the movements of his lips the emotions of his soul. Every feature in the face, according to Mr. Hilyard, corresponds to some virtue or defect in the soul. Thus, if one have thick lips, thrust forward, like Mr. Patten, one may be expected to be like him, a self-seeker, chatterer, mischief-maker, and betrayer of honest folk. My lord’s complexion was fair, and, before his hair was shaved, his head had been adorned with clusters of brown curls.
In short, the countenance of Lord Derwentwater indicated a soul full of dignity, benevolence, and sweetness. So it looked to me the first time that ever I looked upon it; so it proved to be so long as I knew it; so it seemed to me the last time —— oh, most sad and sorrowful time! —— that I saw it. There never was any human face in which the great virtues of humanity and kindness were more brightly illustrated than in the face of this young gentleman.
Behind the Earl rode his two brothers, Francis and Charles. The former was of smaller stature than the elder brother, and held his head down as if in thought; but it was his habit to go thus looking upon the ground. When he lifted his eyes one saw that they were strangely sad, and on his face there rested always a cloud, for which there was no reason save that he was, like his uncle, of a melancholic temperament from his youth upwards; and his eyes had always a look in them as of one who expects misfortune. Witches say that to men with such a look in their eyes misfortune comes; it is said that the look of impending misfortune may be read in the eyes of all the Stuarts —— the Royal House which the Fates, or rather the Furies, have persecuted with strange malevolence. Can it be that the future of a man may be read in his eyes, as in the palm of his hand? I know not; but Jenny Lee, my maid, the little gipsy witch, dropped strange prophetic hints about these young men, for which I rebuked her, even before she read their hands. As for Charles, the youngest of the three, he was as yet but a lad of sixteen, well-grown and comely; wore his own brown hair, and was as handsome as his eldest brother, yet in a different way. Those who can read fate in the eyes may have read his sorrows there, but to the rest of us they were brave and merry eyes, belonging to a young man who neither looked for evil nor feared it, and certainly never anticipated it; a brave, impetuous creature, as full of fancies and whims as any girl, as hot-headed as a Highlander; no lover of books or reading, yet a lad who had a great deal of knowledge, and forgot nothing. As he read so little, one must needs conjecture that he picked up his knowledge as the birds pick up their crumbs, bit by bit from conversation. Thus, though no scholar, he began very soon to be curious about the Roman remains, ancient ruins, and the antiquities of the county, so that he must needs ride over to Chollerford with Mr. Hilyard to see the old bridge and the wall, and discourse with him on moat and tower, and the uses of the wall, as if he had been a great student.
The mud and dust of travel had stained their clothes, but still the three brothers were much more richly dressed than our plain gentlemen, who for the most part wore plain drab or plush coats, with silver buttons, their linen not always of the freshest, their ruffles generally torn, and their wigs undressed. But then there is not much money among these younger sons, so that these things go unregarded. Nevertheless, I saw more than one looking with envy on the gold-laced hats and the embroidered scarfs of the Earl and his brothers.
Well, there was, to be sure, a great shouting as my lord rode slowly through this lane, shaking hands with every man in turn. He knew the names and families, though not the faces, of all, and could give each a kindly speech, with his Christian name, as if he had been an old friend separated only by a month or two. Presently it came to our turn, and he bowed very low and kissed my hand, saying a pretty thing about the good omen of being welcomed by the beautiful Dorothy Forster, and that if she would extend her friendship to him he should indeed be happy.
‘I fear, my lord,’ I said, being confused with so much compliment, ‘that you take me for my aunt, Lady Crewe.’
‘Nay,’ he said, ‘I take you for no other than yourself; although I know, believe me, of that elder Dorothy, once the flame of my father.’
And then more compliments, which may be omitted, because they were framed in pure kindness, and intended to please a girl who certainly never had many pretty things said to her before, though she knew very well that many gentlemen, she thought to please her brother, called her the beautiful Dorothy.
My lord had been from infancy at the Court of St. Germain, where, although there were many English gentlemen and their sons, French was commonly talked. He had also had French servants and valets, and lived among a people talking nothing but their own language. It is not, therefore, wonderful that he not only talked French as well as English, but also spoke his own language with a slight foreign accent. This very soon wore off (changing into the Northumberland burr), together with a certain shyness which marked him during the early days when he knew nothing of his friends except by name, and found them, as he afterwards confessed to me, different, indeed, from his expectations; that is to say, less polished in their manners, and more loyal in their friendships. Could a gentleman have higher praise? And is not loyalty better than a fine manner, however well we are pleased with it?
‘And this,’ said my lord, ‘I dare swear, is my cousin, Tom Forster of Bamborough.’
‘No other, my lord,’ cried Tom heartily, ‘and right glad to see you home again’.
Presently all rode back together, the younger men still shouting, and the elders riding soberly behind the Earl, I having the honour of riding on his right hand, and Mr. Errington on his left, while Tom rode with Frank and Charles Radcliffe. It was wonderful to observe how my lord knew all of them, and their private affairs and estates, and their position in the county. Indeed, by his father’s orders —— his mother caring nothing about such matters —— he had been instructed most carefully in the history of Northumberland families. It was an amiable and even a prince-like quality in him, as it had been in his grandfather, Charles II., never to forget the faces of those whom he met. I suppose that, had he chosen to exercise the power, he might also, like his royal cousin, and by right of descent, have touched for the king’s evil. Certainly the disloyal usurper, the Duke of Monmouth, did so.
It was now nearly four o’clock, and the short February day was drawing to a close. But the people who had come so far were not tired of waiting, and we found them all upon the bridge ready to shout their honest greeting. An honest and hearty crowd. Among them were not only some of the Earl’s cousins —— there was never a Radcliffe without a cloud of cousins —— and Lord Widdrington, with his brothers and others of the company from Hexham, but also the tenants and farmers, and a great company of miners, rough and rude fellows, with bristly beards and shaggy coats, who had trudged across the moor from Allendale. They were gathered together on the bridge, with pipers and a drum. When the procession came in sight, you may fancy what a noise, with the music and the shouting, was raised, and what a waving and throwing up of hats, and how the younger men in their joy, after the manner of young men, did beat and belabour one another. The Earl stopped and looked about him. These hundreds were assembled to give him welcome home. It is such a sight as brings the tears into a young man’s eyes; it was the first time, perhaps, that he understood his own power; the visible proof of it dazzled and moved him —— remember this, I pray you. Now, had he been brought up among all these people, he would have been familiar with his greatness from the beginning, and so might have grown hardened in heart, as happens to many who come to their estates in boyhood. This was not his case; and he was ever full of compassion for those who were his tenants, his dependents, and his servants. When the end came he spared them; he would not lead them out to the destruction which he wrought for himself, and from a mistaken sense of honour, though with a heavy heart. I say, at the sight of these rude and hearty people the tears came into the young Earl’s eyes and fell down his cheeks. I, who was nearest to him, saw them, and treasured the memory of them in my heart.
These rude miners, these sturdy farmers, these rough fellows, with their strange speech unfamiliar to him, were his own people, not his serfs and slaves. They were bound to him by no cruel laws of service, as the wretched people of France; yet, at his bidding, they would rise to a man and follow him. The Radcliffes were at no time tyrants and oppressors of the poor. From father to son they were always a kindly race, who dealt generously with the people, and reaped their reward in the affection and the loyalty of their tenants and dependents. Perhaps Lord Derwentwater, as he gazed upon the sea of faces, remembered that he might some day bid them take pike and firelock and follow him. I, for one, am ashamed to say that this was in my thoughts; and so, I am sure, it was in the thoughts of others in the company, who looked on the Earl as nothing but the possible leader of so many hundred men, and the owner of vast wealth, which was to be at the service of the Cause.
Then we rode across the bridge, and so up the steep lane which leads to the great avenue of Dilston Hall, and, beyond the avenue, the bridge across the Devilstone, its water, then foaming white, rushing down the dark and narrow channel between rugged rocks covered with green moss and (but not in March) with climbing plants, and arched over with trees, such as larch, alder, birch, and rowan. Behind us tramped and ran the crowd, all shouting together, with such a tumult as had not been seen since last the Scottish marauders attacked the town of Hexham; and that was long enough ago, and clean forgotten.
At the doors of the castle the Earl’s nearest relations stood ready to receive him. The first to greet him were his aunts, the Ladies Katharine and Mary Radcliffe, the sisters of the late Earl. They were not yet old, as Northumberland counts age, but certainly stricken in years, and perhaps neither of them under fifty. Both were dressed alike, and wore simple black silk frocks, with plain satin petticoats, high stomachers, and a great quantity of lace on their sleeves; also they had on long white kid gloves, and their hair was carefully dressed in high commodes, on the top of which was more lace, which gave them a nun-like appearance. Everybody knows that they hesitated all their lives whether or no to enter a convent, but in deference to their spiritual adviser remained without those gloomy walls, and yet practised, besides the usual Christian virtues, as to which many ladies of lower rank will not yield to them, the rules of some strict sisterhood, in virtue of which they rose early, and even in the night, to pray in the chapel, fasted very frequently, and went always in terror whether, by taking an egg on a Friday, or sugar to their chocolate, or cheese in Lent, they were not endangering their precious souls. I laugh not at them, because they lived up to the light of their consciences, and according to the laws laid down by their confessor. Yet I am happy in having had the plain Rule of Life laid down for me by my Prayer Book, the late Lord Bishop of Durham, and, in these recent years, by Mr. Hilyard. I need no confessor, and my conscience is at peace within me, whatever I eat or drink, thereby imitating the example of St. Paul. However, these were great ladies, who thought much of the example they were setting to other women; they were proud and stately in their bearing, yet kind of heart; in appearance they were so much alike that at first one did not distinguish them. Lady Katherine was the elder, and she was perhaps more lined and crossed in the face than her sister.
A pretty sight it was to see these two ladies trembling when their nephews approached, looking from one to the other of the three gallant young men who stood before them, and turning at length to the tallest and bravest of the three, who stepped forward and bent his knee, kissing their hands, and then kissing their cheeks.
‘James,’ cried Lady Katherine, ‘you are like my father more than your own.’
‘Nay, sister,’ said Mary, ‘he is also like our deceased brother. Nephew, you are welcome home. Stay with your own people; a Radcliffe is best in Northumberland; stay among us, and marry a North Country girl. And these are Frank and Charles. My dears, you are also very welcome. Remember, we are English here, not French.’
So they, too, saluted their aunts, and then Lady Swinburne followed, and after her Sir William, who, as he bade his cousin welcome to his own, loudly expressed the hope that nothing would be attemped by the Earl or his friends which would endanger so noble a head or so great an estate, adding that he knew there were many about who would endeavour to make his lordship a stalking-horse; that he was young as yet, and inexperienced; and that he commended him to follow the counsels of his father’s old friend, Mr. Errington.
To this Lord Widdrington responded with a loud ‘Amen’ and a profane oath, saying that as for danger, if all who were in the same boat would only pull together, and with a will, there would be no danger.
So, one after the other, all had been presented to the Earl, and we were beginning to wonder what would come next, when we saw the Reverend Mr. Patten stepping forward with an air of great importance. He bowed very low, and said that he had the honour to represent the Protestant Church of England and the clergy of Northumberland. (This shows the pushing, lying nature of the man, who had been in the Vicarage but a few months, and was unknown to the clergy, except that he was once curate at Penrith.) In their name he bade his lordship welcome. Speaking as a High Churchman and Tory, he said that he, in common with most, desired nothing so much as to be delivered of the godless; meaning, I suppose, the Whigs. And that, as for those who wish to transfer the succession to the House of Hanover, he could say, from his conscience:
‘Confounded be these rebels all That to usurpers bow, And make what Gods and Kings they please, And worship them below.’
He said a good deal more —— being applauded by some and regarded by others as an impertinent intruder. I was pleased to contrast this officiousness with the modesty of Mr. Hilyard, who stood without, not presuming to be presented to my lord, or to address him; yet, if he had spoken, he would certainly have delivered a very fine discourse, full of Latin quotations and reference to ancient authors.
‘I thank you, sir,’ said my lord coldly, when this person had quite finished; ‘but for this evening, indeed, we will have nothing of politics or the godless, or of Whigs and Tories.’
This he said partly to rebuke the impertinent zeal of Mr. Patten, and partly to silence certain noisy gentlemen, including the notorious Dick Gascoigne and Jack Hall, who were loudly boasting of what would happen now that his lordship was at home. One may truly say that there was hardly a moment from the time of the Earl’s return when he was allowed to rest in peace, from the day he returned to the day when he left his castle for the last time; their intention being always to keep before his lordship, and never suffer him to forget, that he was considered the head and chief of the Prince’s adherents in the north, and that his approval was taken for granted whatever was hatched. Those who were for open rebellion reckoned that he would join the first rising, whenever and wherever that was attempted, without hesitation; as for those who were for patience and making the party strong, they knew that they could depend upon him. In reality, however, it was perfectly well understood that the Earl desired above all things, and was desired by the leading men of the party, to keep himself retired and apart from politics until the time came when, like an important piece in the game of chess, he could move with the best effect.
It would have been more consonant with his ambition had he been born a mere private gentleman, able to live out his days in peace, and in the exercise of good works. But then, as Mr. Hilyard truly said, it is not every great man who is suffered by his friends, like Diocletian, after making Rome the metropolis of the whole world, by a voluntary exile to retire himself from it, and to end his days in his own secluded villa, a gardener and private gentleman in Dalmatia; or like Scipio, to build his house in the midst of a wood. Lord Derwentwater would have imitated this great Roman had it been permitted. It is, however, the misfortune of the great that the grandeur and eminence of their state will not permit them to taste for long the felicities of a private life.
‘An earl’s coronet in unquiet times,’ said Mr. Hilyard, ‘is like unto a king’s crown. Few of them are so soft lined but they sit heavy on the wearer’s brow.’
When my lord and his brothers retired to change their travelling-dress, Colonel Radcliffe invited the whole company to a supper, or banquet, which would be shortly served in the great hall. This was, of course, expected. Presently the brothers returned, dressed in a fashion suitable to their rank. The Earl had now a peach-coloured satin coat, lined with white, a flowered silk waistcoat, a crimson scarf, white silk stockings, and red-heeled shoes with diamond buckles. He gave his hand to his aunt, Lady Katharine. Lord Widdrington followed with Lady Mary, Francis Radcliffe with Lady Swinburne, Charles with Madam Errington, and Sir William with myself, and the rest after us in due order and such precedence as their age and rank allowed.
I think there never was a more joyful banquet than this; perhaps the cooks were not equal to those of Paris, but I am sure that by the guests nothing better could have been desired or expected. Of ladies there were only the five I have named. I was pleased to observe at the bottom of the table Mr. Hilyard, who was proposing to retire, as, not being a gentleman of the county or by birth, he was right in doing; but Colonel Radcliffe, who knew him well, insisted on his coming in, and placed him at the table beside himself.
It was Mr. Errington who asked the gentlemen to drink a bumper to the health of his lordship. He reminded those present who were of his own age that it was already twenty years since a Radcliffe had lived in Dilston Hall, and more than that length of time since so large a company had met together under its roof. He then spoke of the young Earl’s education, and averred his belief that, though brought up in France, he had remained an Englishman at heart, and had brought from that country nothing but the politeness of its nobles and the gallantry of its people —— qualities, he said, which, added to the courage of the English bulldog and his own generous nature as a true Radcliffe, could not but command the affections and respect of all. He would have said more, but the gentlemen would listen no longer, and, springing to their feet, drained their glasses, and shouted so that it did your heart good to hear them. I am quite sure there was never a hypocrite or pretender among them all (save Mr. Patten), so hearty and so unfeigned was their joy to receive this comely and gallant gentleman among them.
‘Gentlemen,’ said his lordship, when they suffered him at length to speak, and when his voice returned to him, for he was choked almost with the natural emotion which was caused by so much heartiness ——‘Gentlemen, I know not how to thank you sufficiently; indeed, I have no words strong enough for my thanks. I am an untried stranger, and you treat me as a proved friend. Yet we are kith and kin; we are cousins all; our ancestors stood shoulder to shoulder in many a Border fight; so let us always stand together. And as for what my cousin, Sir William, said just now, it is truly the wish of the Prince that no rash or ill-considered enterprise be taken in hand.’
Then he sat down, saying no more, for he was a man of few words. And, while the gentlemen shouted again, the ladies left the board, and went away to talk by themselves about his lordship and his two brothers.
Meantime, outside, the common sort, unmindful of the cold, were regaling themselves in their own way, having a barrel or two of strong ale broached, and a great fire, where an ox was roasting whole, the very smell of the beef being a banquet to many poor souls who seldom taste flesh, unless it be the flesh of swine, and that in great lumps of fat, which they sometimes eat with bread and sometimes soak in hot milk, Providence having bestowed upon this class of people stomachs stronger than those of gentlefolk.
‘In all times,’ saith Mr. Hilyard, ‘roastbeef has been in great scarcity, insomuch that in Homer the gods are represented as pleased by the fragrance or perfume of the roasting meat. And, if the very gods, how much more the common people! A morsel of bread dipped in oil, and a fig or a bunch of grapes, made their only meal for the day. As for swine’s flesh, that they never so much as tasted. When the Crusaders occupied the Holy Land (where they founded the Latin Kingdom, which they thought would last for ever), leprosy broke out among them, which they attributed to the eating of pork. But I know not if that was indeed the case.’
Certainly, to a Northumbrian nose, there is no smell more delicious than that of a piece of roasting beef, and these good fellows were sitting patiently about the fire until the ox should be cooked through. Some there were, it is true, who, miscalculating their strength of head, took so many pulls at Black Jack that they rolled over, and had to be carried into the kitchen and laid on the floor, so that they went supperless to bed. This was a pity, because his lordship did not give a roasted ox every day in the year, and to lose your share in a great feast is a dreadful thing for a poor man, and one thrown in his teeth all his life afterwards.
When Lord Derwentwater left his guests, which was early, because he never loved deep potations, he went outside to speak with his humble friends round the bonfire. They were at the moment engaged upon the beef, which was good but underdone, and in their best and most cheerful mood. He went among them shaking them by the hand, asking their names, kissing the young women, promising to call at their houses and farms, bidding the lads bustle about with the beer, promising to help them if he could be of any help, laughing at himself for understanding their speech slowly, and all with so hearty and easy a grace as to make the poor folk feel that truly a friend had come to them at last across the seas.
The housekeeper, good Mrs. Busby, who had waited for him day and night for twenty years, found beds for the ladies and for some of the gentlemen. But most of them slept where they fell, and in the morning, by dint of cold water poured upon the head, and smallbeer within, recovered their faculties before they rode away.
Before I went up the great staircase to bed, I looked into the hall. It was already very late —— nearly eleven. The gentlemen were drinking still, and some of them were smoking pipes of tobacco, while some were very red in the face, and some had fallen asleep —— their heads hanging downwards and quite helpless and sad to see, or else lolling back upon the chair with open mouth like an idiot, or lying on the table upon their arms. Strong drink had stolen away their brains, and for twelve hours they would be senseless. Among those who slept in their chairs was none other than his reverence, Mr. Robert Patten. A shameful spectacle! His great mouth was wide open, his head lying back, and some wag with a burnt cork had marked his upper lip and cheeks with the black moustachios and ferocious whiskers borne —— I am told —— by certain soldiers of a fierce and warlike nation called Heyducs. Why, it is a venial thing for a layman, one who has, perhaps, ridden and hunted for a whole day, to be overcome with thirst and potency of drink; but for a clergyman, one whose thoughts should be set upon holy things and the mysteries of the Christian scheme —— faugh! the sight is sorrowful indeed. One may remember many evil things in the life of Mr. Patten, but few more disgraceful than his tipsy senselessness at Lord Derwentwater’s return.
How different was Mr. Antony Hilyard! He was not drunk, nor, apparently, touched with wine. But his jolly red face was beaming with smiles. On one side of him sat Colonel Radcliffe, who had forgotten his invisible enemy, and was now laughing and listening; on the other side was Charles Radcliffe, not drinking, but looking curiously around him, and especially at the singer, as, with glorified face, bright eyes, and brandished glass, as if life was to him a dream of pure happiness without a care or a fear, he sang merrily —— men are like children, tickled with a straw, but yet it is a catching air —— his famous song:
‘I am a jolly toper, I am a ragged Soph,
Known by the pimples on my face with taking bumpers off;
And a-toping we will go —— we will go —— we will go ——
And a-toping we will go.’
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:51