So the next day to Blanchland, a ride of nine miles across a moor as wild as any in England; and Tom glum, partly on account of last night’s wine and partly at prospect of a whole year spent in this secluded spot.
‘Consider, sir,’ said Mr. Hilyard, ‘the advantages of the plan. First, it will be impossible to spend any money ——’
Here Tom flung into a rage, and swore that it was shameful for the owner of Bamborough to want for a little money.
‘Next,’ continued the judicious steward, ‘your honour will have most excellent shooting and fishing; and as for society ——’
‘I know all your songs,’ said Tom. ‘Can you not write some more?’
‘As for society, there are my lord and his brothers within an easy ride. Your honour doth very well understand that it may be both a singular advantage for yourself to enjoy the friendship of a nobleman who hath the Prince’s private ear, and to his lordship to have the benefit of your experience and advice in the conduct of his private affairs. As for that, I conceive it nothing short of a Providential interposition that, at the moment when he should arrive, inexperienced and raw, he should find in your honour a wise adviser.’
‘That is true, Tony,’ said Tom, looking more cheerful. ‘Dilston Hall is not ten miles from Blanchland, and the wine is good. We will teach him how to drink it. These Frenchmen cannot drink.’
‘And to mix whisky punch. In France they do not even know the liquor.’
‘Poor devils!’ said Tom. ‘His lordship has much to learn.’
But as Lord Derwentwater was for the next six months entirely occupied with the survey of his own estates, not only in Northumberland, but also in Lancashire and Cumberland, we saw nothing of him, and spent our time without any company other than our own. Mr. Patten, it is true, was sometimes so kind as to ride across the moor from Allenhead, and by a coarse flattery (call it rather an abject surrender of his judgment), compared with which Mr. Hilyard’s method was fine and delicate, he acquired an influence over Tom which afterwards did great harm. Certainly it was a quiet summer which we spent, and had Tom been content I should have been happy. Fortunately, her ladyship was pleased, and signified her pleasure in plain terms.
‘“I design not,”’ she wrote, ‘“that my nephew should live other than a gentlemen of his name and position ought. But I am well pleased that you are for a space removed from the company of those who lead you into wasteful courses with horse-racing and wagers”’—— Tom had been of late unfortunate ——”‘of which it is now well-nigh time to have done. It is my lord’s earnest desire that you should shortly take the place which becomes your family, and, on the retirement of your father, that you should represent the county in his stead. As this cannot be done without expense, and as we learn that your father is not willing to undertake the charge, having his second family to consider, it is the intention of my lord to make an annual allowance out of his Northumberland estates, such as may suffice for your maintenance in style befitting a gentleman. This generosity, I beg you to believe, is unasked by me, though I confess that he knows very well the solicitude with which I watch the welfare of my nephew. To be guided, as well as to be assisted, by so great and good a man, should be considered by you an honour.’”
‘This,’ said Mr. Hilyard, who was reading the letter, ‘is the first-fruit of that intention which I foretold six months ago.’
‘Ay,’ said Tom, ‘always at her ladyship’s apron. But go on. Has she any more advice? Am I to ask the Bishop permission to take a glass of whisky punch? Will he give me leave to hunt upon the moor? ’Tis all his.’
‘He who hath patience,’ replied Mr. Hilyard, ‘hath all. Ladies’ leading-strings stretch not all the way from Durham to St. Stephen’s. I proceed with the letter:
‘“I desire next to inform you that my Lord the Bishop hath a great desire to converse with Lord Derwentwater, and that in a private and quiet manner which will give no opportunity for malicious tongues. A Bishop of English Church cannot openly visit a Catholic peer, nor should he invite scandal and malignant whispers by entertaining in his own house so close a friend and so near a relation of the Prince. He wishes, therefore, that you should invite a hunting-party to Blanchland in October, at which he, too, unless otherwise prevented, will be present. Among your guests be sure that Lord Derwentwater is present. So no more at present. Give Dorothy, your sister, my blessing and that of the Bishop, and tell Mr. Hilyard, your steward, that I expect thrift in household charges while you are at Blanchland.
‘“Your loving Aunt,
To be sure, it was impossible to spend money at this quiet place, where there were no gentlemen to make matches, play cards, and lay bets, no market-town nearer than Hexham, no buying of horses, and no other people except ourselves and the hinds who tilled our lands. There is certainly nowhere in England a place which lies so remote from human habitation, unless it be in Allendale or among the Cheviots, as this old ruined Tower of Blanchland. Formerly it was a monastery, but was destroyed very long ago, in the reign of the first Edward, by a party of marauding Scots, and was never afterwards rebuilt. They say that the marauding Scots, who had crossed the Border with sacrilegious intent to sack this House of God, on account of its reputed wealth, had lost their way upon the moor in a mist, and were returning homeward disappointed, when they heard the monastery bell ringing close at hand —— it was to call the good monks together for a Te Deum on account of their escape from the enemy whose coming was looked for. Alas! the bell was a knell, and the Te Deum a funeral chant, for the ringing guided the robbers to the spot, and they quickly broke through the gates, murdered all the monks, set fire to the buildings, and rode away carrying their unhallowed spoil with the sacred vessels, driving the monks’ cattle before them, and leaving behind them nothing but the unburied corpses of the unfortunate brothers. Surely some dreadful vengeance must have overtaken these men; but it is so long ago that the memory of their names as well as their punishment has long since perished, though that of the crime has survived.
Blanchland lies along the valley of the Derwent in a deep hollow about the middle of the great moor called Hexhamshire Common, and ten or eleven miles south of Hexham; the stream is here quite little and shallow, babbling over pebbles and under trees; it is crossed by the stout old stone bridge built by the monks themselves, who once farmed the valley. The fields are now tilled by a few hinds who live about and around the quadrangle of the old monastery still marked by the ancient walls, behind which the rustics have built their cottages. The place has the aspect of an ancient and decayed college, the quadrangle having been neatly cobbled, and a pant of clear water erected by my great-great-grandfather, Sir Claudius, who died here in the year 1627. Our own dwelling-house consisted of two buildings; one, which we used for company and visitors, is first, a great square tower which stands over the ancient gate —— Mr. Hilyard says that the place might easily have been held for weeks against simple mosstroopers —— it has several good rooms in it; and the second a part of the old monastery, including the refectory, a fair and noble hall, with a large kitchen below, and beside it a small modern house, contrived either by Sir Claudius or some previous holders, within another ancient square tower. This house, very convenient in all respects, has a stone balcony on the north side, from where stone steps lead to the green meadow, which was once the monks’ burying-place. The ruins of their chapel, an old roofless tower and the walls, are standing in the meadow. Within the old chapel grass grows between the flags, wallflowers flourish upon the walls; there is on one of the stones a figure and an inscription, which Mr. Hilyard interpreted to be that of a certain man once Forester to the Abbey. But not a monument or a stone to the memory of the dead monks. They are gone and forgotten —— names, and lives, and all —— though their dust and ashes are beneath the feet of those who stand there. Bush and bramble grow round the chapel and cover the old graves, whose very mounds have now disappeared and are level with the turf. Among them rises an old stone cross, put up no one knows when. It is truly a venerable and ghostly place. In the twilight or moonlight one may see, or think he sees, the ghosts of the murdered friars among the ruins. In the dark winter evenings, the people said, they could be heard, when the wind was high, chaunting in the chapel; and every year, on that day when they rang the fatal bell and so called in the Scots, may be heard at midnight the ringing of a knell. Many are there who can testify to this miracle; and at night the venerable ghost of the Abbot himself may be sometimes met upon the bridge. But this may be rumour, for the people of the place are rude, having no learning at all, little religion, but great credulity, and prone to believe all they hear. Certainly I have never myself met the Abbot’s ghost, though I have often stood upon the bridge after nightfall alone or with Mr. Hilyard. On the other hand, I have heard, on windy nights, the chaunting of the dead monks very plainly. While we were there I heard so many ghost-stories that I began to suspect something wrong, and presently was not astonished to find that the number and dreadful, fearful aspect of the ghosts had greatly increased since we came to the place, insomuch that for years after (and no doubt until now) the simple people of the village, if it may be called a village, were frightened out of their lives if they had but to cross the quadrangle or fetch water at the pant after sunset. The cause of this terror was no other than my maid, Jenny Lee, who saw these apparitions. I verily believe that she invented her stories out of pure mischief and wantonness, spreading abroad continually tales of new ghosts. One day she saw in the graveyard a skull with fiery eyes, which grinned at her. Another evening she met the Devil himself (she declared; but his honour and Miss Dorothy must be told nothing about it —— artful creature!), with flames coming out of his mouth, and a great roaring, sure to bring mischief, if only the loss of a chicken or a sucking-pig, to some one. Another time there was a black dog, which portended death. Had I known of these things at the time, Jenny should soon, indeed, have gone a-packing. But I did not know till later on, when Mr. Hilyard inquired into the truth of these stories, and traced them all to this girl.
We passed here a quiet time during the spring and summer of that year. In the morning Tom went a-fishing, or hunted the otter, or went after badgers, or some kind of vermin, of which there are great quantities on the moor. After dinner he commonly slept. After supper he drank whisky punch, and to bed early. As for me, when my housewife duties were accomplished, I talked with the women-folk, who were simple and ignorant, but of good hearts; or walked up the valley along the south side, where there is a high sloping bank, or hill —— to my mind very beautiful. It is covered with trees. By the middle of June these trees have put on their leaves, and among the leaves are the pink blossoms of the blueberries and the white flowers of the wild strawberry, to say nothing of the wild flowers which clothe the place in that month as with a carpet. Even thus, in June, must have looked the Garden of Eden. In the afternoon Mr. Hilyard read to me, and we held converse in low whispers while Tom slept. And on Sunday morning the villagers came together, and Mr. Hilyard read the service appointed for the day. It was in June that Lord Derwentwater rode across the moor to visit us. We found that the shyness which he showed on his first return had gone altogether, being replaced by the most charming courtesy and condescension to all ranks. He had also begun to acquire the North-country manner of speech, and could converse with the common people. On his progress, if so it may be called, he was received everywhere with such joy that he was astonished, having as yet done nothing to deserve it.
‘The gentlemen of Northumberland,’ he declared, ‘are the most hospitable in the whole world, and the women are the most beautiful —— yes, Miss Dorothy, though they are but as the moon compared with one sun which I know. As for the moors’—— he had just ridden across Hexhamshire Common from Allendale to Blanchland on his way home to Dilston ——‘as for the moors, the air is certainly the finest in the world.’
Then he told us of his travels, the people he had met with, and the things he had done and was going to do. He would enlarge Dilston; he would rebuild Langley; he would build a cottage on the banks of Derwentwater, where his ancestors once had a great house; here he would build boats, and then, with his friends, would float upon the still waters among the lovely islands of the lake, and listen to the cooing of the doves in the woods, or to the melodious blowing of horns upon the shore. This, he said, would be all the Heaven he would ask if I was there to sit beside him in his boat. Alas! Every taste that most adorns the age was possessed by this young nobleman, and especially those truly princely tastes which desire the erection of stately buildings, the gathering of friends to enjoy his wealth, and the society of beautiful women. We ought not to reproach men with weakness on this score, seeing that all the best and noblest of mankind —— and chiefly those —— have loved women’s society.
Among other things that pleased him beside the universal welcome which he received, was that when he went into Lancashire —— it is so small a trifle that it should not, perhaps, be mentioned —— they made him Mayor of Walton. One would hardly suppose that it was worthy of the dignity of so great a lord to be pleased with so small a thing. Yet he was, and, just as Tom and his friends loved to drink and laugh, and Mr. Hilyard (but of an evening only) to sing and act, and play the buffoon, so Lord Derwentwater himself was not free from what we may call, without irreverence, a besetting infirmity of his sex, and a blemish upon the character of many great men —— I mean this love of tomfooling. Now, the Corporation of Walton is nothing in the world but a club of gentlemen held in a village of that name near Preston. Every member of the Club held an office. The Mayor has a Deputy, to take the chair in his absence. There are also in this foolish society a Recorder, two Bailiffs, two Serjeants, a Physician, a Mace-bearer, a Poet Laureate, and a Jester.
This burlesque of serious institutions appeared to Lord Derwentwater, and no doubt to the other members of the Club, a most humorous stroke; he laughed continually over their doings and sayings with Tom; and, in fact, so tickled him with the thing that the very next year he took the journey with the Earl to Preston, and there was elected into the Club, and honoured with the office of Serjeant, while Mr. Hilyard, always to the front where fooling and play-acting were concerned, was made at once both Poet Laureate and Jester, which offices were happily vacant for him. It is said that the verses he wrote, the jests he made, and the songs he sung, were worthy of being added to Mr. Brown’s ‘Miscellaneous Works,’ or Mr. D’Urfey’s ‘Pills to Purge Melancholy;’ but, unfortunately, the records of the Society perished in the disasters of the year 1715, and with them Mr. Hilyard’s verses.
One may easily excuse this levity in Lord Derwentwater, when one remembers that he and all his companions were as yet in their earliest manhood, before the vivacity of youth has vanished. Tom, the eldest, was but six-and-twenty; Lord Derwentwater himself, the youngest, only twenty-one; all of them honest country gentlemen and their younger brothers, and none, as yet, sated with the pleasures of the wicked town. How were the younger sons, for instance, to find money for the pleasures of town? I cannot pretend that all these young gentlemen were virtuous, or, in all their amusements, innocent; certainly, a good many of them were frequently drunk. But still they were all young, and one feels that a young man may sin out of mere youthful joy, and then repent; while an old man, if he sins it is hardness of heart. And, being young, they were full of spirits.
‘Solomon,’ said Mr. Hilyard, ‘teaches that a merry heart doeth good like medicine. Also he reminds us that a merry head maketh a cheerful countenance, and, further, that he who is of a merry heart hath a continual feast. Wherefore, Miss Dorothy, let not this laughter of his honour, my patron, and Lord Derwentwater trouble you.’
Why, it could not trouble one if the causes of their mirth could have been understood. But it is of no use to talk of these things. Women sit with quiet faces, though their hearts are glad; but men must needs be laughing. Besides, Solomon has said so much about fools and their mirth as to make one afraid, lest, by laughing over-much, one may be confounded with these fools.
Then began my lord to come often to Blanchland, and I to enjoy the most happy six months of my life. Only six months! Yet, all that went before and all that came after are to be counted as nothing compared with that brief period of happiness. He would come over in the morning, when Tom was abroad, and hold conversation with me, either walking or in the old refectory where we sat. We talked of many things which I have not forgotten, but cannot write down all I remember. Sometimes Mr. Hilyard was with us, and sometimes we were alone. We conversed upon high and lofty themes, as well as on little things of the moment. Once, walking among the ruins of the monks’ chapel, I had the temerity —— or perhaps the ill-breeding —— to venture on asking him how it came about that a man of his knowledge and penetration could continue in the fold of the Roman Catholic Church.
He was not angry at the question, as might be expected (which shows his goodness of heart), but laughed, and said that he remained a Catholic because no one had yet succeeded in converting the Pope.
‘Fair Doctor of Divinity,’ he added; ‘do not tempt me. There is nothing I would not willingly do for the sake of your beaux yeux; but ask not a thing which touches my honour. Loyalty I owe to my Church as much as to my King. My cousin Dorothy would not surely advise a Radcliffe against his honour.’
This question of his religion dwelt in my lord’s mind, and he returned to it on another occasion, saying very seriously that Protestants were unhappy in knowing none of the repose and ease of soul which belong to those who hold what he called the True Faith.
‘For,’ he said, ‘either they are perplexed by doubts and always drifting into new heresies, or they are painfully striving, each for himself, and unaided, to attain his own safety, or they are guided by one or other of the heretic doctors to their irreparable loss; whereas we,’ he added, ‘live free from doubts. The Church hath settled all doubts long ago; she orders, and we obey; she teaches, and we believe; we have no reason for proving anything; we live without fear, and when at length we die,’ he took off his hat, ‘we are fortified by the last consolations and tender offices of the Church, and borne away by ministering angels, some to Heaven, but of these not many; the rest to the expiating fires of Purgatory. Fair cousin, I would that you, too, were in this fold with me!’
I was silenced, for the grave eyes and earnest voice of his lordship awed my soul. I knew not, indeed, what to answer until I consulted with Mr. Hilyard. In thinking over what my lord had said, his picture of faith seemed fair indeed.
‘Why,’ said Mr. Hilyard, when I spoke of it to him, ‘that is true enough; but, Miss Dorothy, remember that you, too, have a Church which teaches, orders, and consoles. Where are the doubts of which his lordship speaks? I know of none, for my own part; nor do you. And for us, as well as the Papists, surely there are the Sacraments of the Church, without the fires of Purgatory.’
Thus easily is a Papist answered by a man of learning.
But to Lord Derwentwater I only made reply, meekly, that I was an ignorant girl and presumptuous in speaking of such things; whereas, if he would take counsel with Lord Crewe or with Mr. Hilyard —— but upon this he fell a-laughing.
‘What, cousin,’ he said, ‘would you have me take the opinion of a jester, paid to make merriment for his master, and a singer of bacchanalian and dissolute songs for a company of drunken revellers? Nay, Miss Dorothy; I know that he is thy friend, and I speak not to make thee angry; and, in sober moments, I confess that I have found him a person of learning and wisdom. But in things spiritual —— think of it! As for Lord Crewe, I have heard that he is an excellent statesman, venerable for rank and years, and most benevolent in character; but I have never heard that he is a great theologian, or to be named in the same breath as the Fathers of the Church. And if he were, I have not myself the learning or the wit to examine and prove the very foundation of religion, or to be sure of getting a new faith if I cast away my present one, or finding belief through disbelief, or to hope for greater ease than at present I enjoy.’
So no more was said at the time between them of Popery or matters of religion; as for matters political, naturally there was much talk, especially when letters and papers arrived from London with intelligence. The affairs of the French King were going badly; as Englishmen we could not but rejoice, therefore. Yet the hopes of the Prince, so far as they rested on France, were decaying fast, wherefore we must be sorry; yet again, as if to put us in heart, it was reported that London was growing daily more favourable to the lawful Sovereign.
‘What London is, my lord,’ said Mr. Hilyard, ever anxious to glorify his native town, ‘that is the country. London deserted Richard II., and he fell; London joined Edward IV., and the Lancastrians’ cause was lost; it was London which deposed King Charles and sent King James a-packing. Yet the passions of the mob are fickle; we know them not. To-day they bawl for the Chevalier; to-morrow they will throw up their caps for the Protestant religion, and will plunder a Catholic Ambassador’s house. It hath been well observed that the mob is like Tiberius, who, to one beginning, “You remember, Caesar?” replied, “Nay; I do not remember what I was.”’
‘We are a long way from Caesar,’ said the Earl. ‘Let us, however, have no secret conspiracies and dark plots. There have been too many such already. It is not by treason that we shall bring back the King; but by the voice of the people. Never shall it be said that I, for one, dragged men from their homes to fight for their Prince, unless it was first made clear that the country was wholly for him.’
‘If London speaks, the nation will follow,’ Mr. Hilyard repeated.
‘When the country gentry agree to rise,’ said Tom, ‘the thing is as good as done.’
‘Then let nothing be done,’ Lord Derwentwater added, ‘till the voice of the country is certain, and the gentlemen of the country can be depended upon. As for French bayonets, we want none of them. And for premature risings, let us countenance none of them, nor have to do with those who would bring them about. Say I well, Tom Forster?’
‘Excellently well, my lord,’ Tom replied; though he was already, I now believe, in some kind of correspondence with those arch-conspirators, Dick Gascoigne and Captain Talbot. But let these words be remembered, because, in the sequel, it will be seen that they fell into Tom’s heart and remained there, bringing forth fruit.
The summer passed away with such discourse. The hunting-party was fixed for October the 30th. Mr. Hilyard, following her ladyship’s instructions, designed to make it a small and private party; but when it was known that the illustrious Lord Crewe, with his wife, would be present, there came so many promises of attendance, that order had to be taken for a very great quantity of provisions, the arrangement for which cost myself and Jenny Lee many a long day’s work. On the 29th, the Bishop and Lady Crewe rode from Bishop’s Auckland, a distance of twenty miles, over rough country ways —— a long ride for a man between seventy and eighty years of age. When we heard that they were visible form the hill, Tom and I went forth to meet them, and led them form the bridge to the porch.
When Lady Crewe, whom then I saw for the first time since a little child, dismounted, I perceived, though she was wrapped in a great thick hood covering her from head to foot, that she had brown curling hair like my own, and dark eyes of a singular brightness, which my own also somewhat resembled, and that she was of the same height, though stouter, then being about the age of forty.
‘So,’ she said to Tom, ‘thou art my nephew and my coheir. Kiss my cheek, Tom. We shall have a great deal to say.’
Then Tom assisted the Bishop to dismount.
‘Welcome, my lord,’ he said, ‘to your own house and Manor of Blanchland.’
‘As for its being mine own, Nephew Forster,’ said his lordship, ‘thou must ask thy aunt. She will not willingly let Bamborough and Blanchland go to a Crewe.’
Then we led them within, and I received my aunt’s gloves and muff, after kindly greetings from her; but I observed that her eyes followed Tom.
I would have knelt to the Bishop for his blessing, but he raised me, saying kindly:
‘Let me see thy face, Miss Dorothy the younger. Why —— so —— there are Forsters still, I see. Wife, here is the living picture of a certain maid with whom I fell in love twenty years ago. Thou art not so beautiful in my eyes, child, as thy aunt; but I doubt not there are plenty who ——’
‘He hath the face of Ferdinando,’ cried my aunt, speaking of Tom, ‘and the voice of poor Will. But perhaps most he favours my father, Sir William.’
‘She is very like all these, my dear,’ said Lord Crewe, looking earnestly at me. ‘Child, when I look upon thy face I see my own Dorothy again, in her first beauty. Yet she is always the most beautiful woman in the world to me. And every age with her will bring its own charm.’
‘He has the manner of my own branch, not the Etherston Forsters,’ my lady continued. ‘Tom, you must come with me to London before you go into the House. I shall present you to Lady Cowper, our cousin’ (she was a Clavering). ‘She is a rank Whig, but a woman of fashion and, what is better, of sense and virtue. Sense and virtue go together, Dorothy, child, though some people will have it otherwise.’
Lord Crewe bestowed upon Tom a passing glance, which showed me that he was less interested than his wife in the male Forsters.
‘My dear,’ he said, ‘if your nephew is wise he will ask for the society of no other woman than yourself while he is in London.’
Lord Crewe loved his wife so fondly that these compliments were but expressions of his tenderness. Most old men dote on their young wives: not so Lord Crewe. His passion, old as he was, was that of strong manhood, a steady and ardent flame which every woman should desire, one which causes the care and thoughtfulness of the lover to remain long after the honeymoon, and, indeed, throughout the earthly course. Never was there any example more truly illustrating the virtue and happiness of conjugal love than that of Lord Crewe and his wife.
When she had removed her travelling attire, and appeared, her hair dressed in a fontange with Colberteen lace, her silk dress looped to show the rich petticoat beneath, the lace upon her sleeve, her gold chain, and, above all, the surpassing dignity of her carriage and beauty of her face (though now in her fortieth year), I owned to myself that I had never before seen a lady so stately or so truly handsome, or so completely becoming her exalted rank as the wife either of an English bishop or an English baron.
‘What are thy thoughts, child?’ she asked, smiling, because I am sure she knew very well what they were.
‘Madam,’ I replied, with respect, ‘I was but thinking how the people everywhere, not only the gentlefolk but the common folk, and not only at Bamborough, but here and at Alnwick and everywhere, speak still of the beautiful Dorothy Forster —— and that now I know at length what they mean.’
‘Tut, tut!’ she replied, but she laughed and blushed —— she had still the fairest complexion ever seen, and the clearest skin (for the sake of her complexion she would never drink beer, and washed in cold water all the year round), and a colour, white and red, which came and went like a girl’s; her teeth were of a pearly white —— women of forty are sometimes lamentable to look upon, so bad have their teeth become —— with a mouth and rosy lips which seemed still young; her face was round rather than oval; her eyes were large and dark, as I have said; her hair was piled in a low tower, and covered with laces; her sloping shoulders were also half-hidden by a lace mantle, and she had the most dainty figure ever seen. Truly a Juno among women, who had been the chief of the Graces in her youth.
‘Tut, tut!’ she replied, tapping my cheek with her fan, but yet well pleased. ‘Silly child! Beauty is but for a day. We women have our little summer of good looks. A few years and it is over. I am an old woman now. But you, my dear, may look into the glass and see there what your aunt was like when she, like you, was nineteen years of age.’
Then we sat down to supper, Mr. Hilyard being first presented. He would have absented himself altogether, being modest and much afraid of the Lord Bishop; but my lady asked for him, and was good enough to insist upon his presence. Conversation was grave and serious, chiefly sustained by the Bishop, Mr. Hilyard saying never a word, but keeping his eyes on the table, and mightily relieved when at nine his lordship begged to be excused, on the ground that they had travelled far, and that now he was old and must to bed betimes.
‘You have put us in the haunted chamber, Dorothy,’ said Lady Crewe. ‘It was there that Sir Claudius died. When I was a child, I looked every day after dark for his ghost. But it never came. Yes, Blanchland is a strange, ghostly place. The people used to speak of terrible things.’
The Bishop gave her his hand.
‘Come, my dear,’ he said. ‘I engage to drive away any ghosts that come to disturb your sleep.’
Nathaniel, Lord Crewe, of Stene, in Northamptonshire, and Bishop of Durham, was at this time seventy-seven years of age, which we rightly consider a very great age indeed. There were in him, however, none of the infirmities of age; his walk was as firm, his eye was as clear, his voice as vigorous, his seat on horseback as steady, as in most men at fifty. In appearance he was most singular. For he wore his own hair, and not a wig; this was long, and abundant, and perfectly white; on his upper lip was a small whisker or moustache; he always had upon his head a little velvet cap; he was, in person, tall and spare; in his carriage, he stooped somewhat, a fine, scholarly habit, as caused by much reading and meditation; his eyes were black and piercing; his nose was straight and clear; his lips were set firm; and his chin was long and pointed. Those who have seen the portrait of Charles I., may be informed that Lord Crewe’s face somewhat resembled that of the sainted monarch.
He was a younger son of Lord Crewe, of Stene, in Northamptonshire, but, by the death of his elder brothers, he succeeded, in his fiftieth year, to the title. He was, in early life, a distinguished scholar of Lincoln College, Oxford, and was elected a Fellow of that venerable Foundation during the Protectorate, but declared for Crown and Hierarchy in 1660. He was made Rector of his College, Dean of Chichester, and Clerk of the Closet to King Charles II. In the year 1671, he was consecrated Bishop of Oxford, and two years later was translated to the See of Durham, which he held for fifty years, the longest episcopate, I believe, in the history of the Church of England.
No one is ignorant that this prelate incurred great odium during the reign of King James II. for his support of that monarch’s measures. I am not obliged to defend or to accuse his action while he was on the Ecclesiastical Commission; and to those who charge him with the prosecution of Dr. Samuel Johnson, of the Vice–Chancellor of Cambridge, with his famous offer to attend publicly the entry of the Pope’s Nuncio into London, and with his conduct in the case of Magdalen College, Oxford, the writer has nothing at all to say, because she is a simple woman, and these things are too high for her. It is true that in 1688 he was exempted from pardon, and had to take flight across the seas; yet, which shows that his enemies had nothing they could bring home to him, he presently came back and remained unmolested until his death —— that is to say, for five-and-twenty years. He was so good a man, and of so truly kind a heart, that one cannot believe he ever did or said a wrong thing. Certainly he never changed his principles, upholding Divine Right and the lawful succession of the Stuarts, and making no secret of his doctrines. As becomes a bishop, however, he took no active share in the affairs of the party, except in this very year of grace, namely 1710, when he opposed the prosecution of Dr. Sacheverell. And his last words to his chaplain when he died, full of years, in 1722, were, ‘Remember, Dick, never go over to the other side.’
As for his wealth, he possessed as Lord Crewe, his estates and the ancestral seat of Stene, with other manors and houses, in Northamptonshire. As Lord Bishop of Durham, he enjoyed the revenues and the powers of a Prince Palatine, with six splendid castles, including Durham, Auckland, and Norham, and eight great houses. He mostly kept his Court (for truly it was little less) at Durham, where he entertained in the year 1677 the unfortunate Duke of Monmouth, on his way to the north. A magnificent prelate, indeed; with the courage to declare and uphold his opinions; splendid in his carriage, his language, his dress, and in the liveries of his servants; one who ruled himself, his household, and his diocese with a firm hand; who spent freely, yet administered prudently; was affable to all except to those who would dispute his authority or his rank.
‘And now, Tony,’ said Tom, when they were gone, ‘we cannot sing with a bishop in the house; but we can drink. The lemons, brave boy, and the whisky. Methinks her ladyship means well.’
‘So well,’ said Mr. Hilyard, ‘that your honour hath but to defer to her opinions, and your fortunes will be higher even than I looked for. As for myself,’ here he sighed, and looked miserable for the space of three and a half rummers of punch, when he cheered up, and said that if starvation was before him, all the more reason for enjoying the present moment, and that of all the choice gifts of Heaven, that of whisky punch was certainly the one for which mankind should be most grateful. While he discoursed upon its merits I left them, and to bed.
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:47