“Another week,” exclaimed a gentleman in Downing Street on the 5th of August, 1842, “and we shall be prorogued. You can surely keep the country quiet for another week.”
“I cannot answer for the public peace for another four-and-twenty hours,” replied his companion.
“This business at Manchester must be stopped at once; you have a good force there?”
“Manchester is nothing; these are movements merely to distract. The serious work is not now to be apprehended in the cotton towns. The state of Staffordshire and Warwickshire is infinitely more menacing. Cheshire and Yorkshire alarm me. The accounts from Scotland are as bad as can be. And though I think the sufferings of ‘39 will keep Birmingham and the Welch collieries in check, we cannot venture to move any of our force from those districts.”
“You must summon a council for four o’clock. I have some deputations to receive which I will throw over; but to Windsor I must go. Nothing has yet occurred to render any notice of the state of the country necessary in the speech from the Throne.”
“Not yet,” said his companion; “but what will tomorrow bring forth?”
“After all it is only a turn-out. I cannot recast her Majesty’s speech and bring in rebellion and closed mills, instead of loyalty and a good harvest.”
“It would be a bore. Well, we will see tomorrow;” and the colleague left the room.
“And now for these deputations,” said the gentleman in Downing Street, “of all things in the world I dislike a deputation. I do not care how much I labour in the Closet or the house; that’s real work; the machine is advanced. But receiving a deputation is like sham marching: an immense dust and no progress. To listen to their views! As if I did not know what their views were before they stated them! And to put on a countenance of respectful candour while they are developing their exploded or their impracticable systems. Were it not that at a practised crisis, I permit them to see conviction slowly stealing over my conscience, I believe the fellows would never stop. I cannot really receive these deputations. I must leave them to Hoaxem,” and the gentleman in Downing Street rang his bell.
“Well, Mr Hoaxem,” resumed the gentleman in Downing Street as that faithful functionary entered, “there are some deputations I understand, today. You must receive them, as I am going to Windsor. What are they?”
“There are only two, sir, of moment. The rest I could easily manage.”
“And these two?”
“In the first place, there is our friend Colonel Bosky, the members for the county of Calfshire, and a deputation of tenant farmers.”
“These must be attended to. The members have made a strong representation to me that they really cannot any longer vote with government unless the Treasury assists them in satisfying their constituents.”
“And what do they want?”
“Statement of grievances; high taxes and low prices; mild expostulations and gentle hints that they have been thrown over by their friends; Polish corn, Holstein cattle, and British income tax.”
“Well you know what to say,” said the gentleman in Downing Street. “Tell them generally that they are quite mistaken; prove to them particularly that my only object has been to render protection more protective, by making it practical and divesting it of the surplusage of odium; that no foreign corn can come in at fifty-five shillings; that there are not enough cattle in all Holstein to supply the parish of Pancras daily with beef-steaks; and that as for the income tax, they will be amply compensated for it by their diminished cost of living through the agency of that very tariff of which they are so superficially complaining.”
“Their diminished cost of living!” said Mr Hoaxem a little confused. “Would not that assurance, I humbly suggest, clash a little with my previous demonstration that we had arranged that no reduction of prices should take place?”
“Not at all; your previous demonstration is of course true, but at the same time you must impress upon them the necessity of general views to form an opinion of particular instances. As for example a gentleman of five thousand pounds per annum pays to the income tax, which by the bye always call property tax, one hundred and fifty pounds a year. Well, I have materially reduced the duties on eight hundred articles. The consumption of each of those articles by an establishment of five thousand pounds per annum cannot be less than one pound per article. The reduction of price cannot be less than a moiety; therefore a saving of four hundred per annum; which placed against the deduction of the property tax leaves a clear increase of income of two hundred and fifty pounds per annum; by which you see that a property tax in fact increases income.”
“I see,” said Mr Hoaxem with an admiring glance. “And what am I to say to the deputation of the manufacturers of Mowbray complaining of the great depression of trade, and the total want of remunerating profits?”
“You must say exactly the reverse,” said the gentleman in Downing Street. “Show them how much I have done to promote the revival of trade. First of all in making provisions cheaper; cutting off at one blow half the protection on corn, as for example at this moment under the old law the duty on foreign wheat would have been twenty-seven shillings a quarter; under the new law it is thirteen. To be sure no wheat could come in at either price, but that does not alter the principle. Then as to live cattle, show how I have entirely opened the trade with the continent in live cattle. Enlarge upon this, the subject is speculative and admits of expensive estimates. If there be any dissenters on the deputation who having freed the negroes have no subject left for their foreign sympathies, hint at the tortures of the bullfight and the immense consideration to humanity that instead of being speared at Seville, the Andalusian Toro will probably in future be cut up at Smithfield. This cheapness of provisions will permit them to compete with the foreigner in all neutral markets, in time beat them in their own. It is a complete compensation too for the property tax, which impress upon them is a great experiment and entirely for their interests. Ring the changes on great measures and great experiments till it is time to go down and make a house. Your official duties of course must not be interfered with. They will take the hint. I have no doubt you will get through the business very well, Mr Hoaxem, particularly if you be ‘frank and explicit;’ that is the right line to take when you wish to conceal your own mind and to confuse the minds of others. Good morning!”
Two days after this conversation in Downing Street, a special messenger arrived at Marney Abbey from the Lord Lieutenant of the county, the Duke of Fitz–Aquitaine. Immediately after reading the despatch of which he was the bearer, there was a great bustle in the house; Lady Marney was sent for to her husband’s library and there enjoined immediately to write various letters which were to prevent certain expected visitors from arriving; Captain Grouse was in and out the same library every five minutes, receiving orders and counter orders, and finally mounting his horse was flying about the neighbourhood with messages and commands. All this stir signified that the Marney regiment of Yeomanry were to be called out directly.
Lord Marney who had succeeded in obtaining a place in the Household and was consequently devoted to the institutions of the country, was full of determination to uphold them; but at the same time with characteristic prudence was equally resolved that the property principally protected should be his own, and that the order of his own district should chiefly engage his solicitude.
“I do not know what the Duke means by marching into the disturbed districts,” said Lord Marney to Captain Grouse. “These are disturbed districts. There have been three fires in one week, and I want to know what disturbance can be worse than that? In my opinion this is a mere anti-corn-law riot to frighten the government; and suppose they do stop the mills — what then? I wish they were all stopped, and then one might live like a gentleman again?”
Egremont, between whom and his brother a sort of bad-tempered good understanding had of late years to a certain degree flourished, in spite of Lord Marney remaining childless, which made him hate Egremont with double distilled virulence, and chiefly by the affectionate manoeuvres of their mother, but whose annual visits to Marney had generally been limited to the yeomanry week, arrived from London the same day as the letter of the Lord Lieutenant, as he had learnt that his brother’s regiment, in which he commanded a troop, as well as the other yeomanry corps in the North of England, must immediately take the field.
Five years had elapsed since the commencement of our history, and they had brought apparently much change to the character of the brother of Lord Marney. He had become, especially during the last two or three years, silent and reserved; he rarely entered society; even the company of those who were once his intimates had ceased to attract him; he was really a melancholy man. The change in his demeanour was observed by all; his mother and his sister-in-law were the only persons who endeavoured to penetrate its cause, and sighed over the failure of their sagacity. Quit the world and the world forgets you; and Egremont would have soon been a name no longer mentioned in those brilliant saloons which he once adorned, had not occasionally a sensation, produced by an effective speech in the House of Commons, recalled his name to his old associates, who then remembered the pleasant hours passed in his society and wondered why he never went anywhere now.
“I suppose he finds society a bore,” said Lord Eugene de Vere; “I am sure I do; but then what is a fellow to do? I am not in Parliament like Egremont. I believe, after all, that’s the thing; for I have tried everything else and everything else is a bore.”
“I think one should marry like Alfred Mountchesney,” said Lord Milford.
“But what is the use of marrying if you do not marry a rich woman — and the heiresses of the present age will not marry. What can be more unnatural! It alone ought to produce a revolution. Why, Alfred is the only fellow who has made a coup; and then he has not got it down.”
“She behaved in a most unprincipled manner to me — that Fitz–Warene,” said Lord Milford, “always took my bouquets and once made me write some verses.”
“By Jove!” said Lord Eugene, “I should like to see them. What a bore it must have been to write verses.”
“I only copied them out of Mina Blake’s album: but I sent them in my own handwriting.”
Baffled sympathy was the cause of Egremont’s gloom. It is the secret spring of most melancholy. He loved and loved in vain. The conviction that his passion, though hopeless, was not looked upon with disfavour, only made him the more wretched, for the disappointment is more acute in proportion as the chance is better. He had never seen Sybil since the morning he quitted her in Smith’s Square, immediately before her departure for the North. The trial of Gerard had taken place at the assizes of that year: he had been found guilty and sentenced to eighteen months imprisonment in York Castle; the interference of Egremont both in the House of Commons and with the government saved him from the felon confinement with which he was at first threatened, and from which assuredly state prisoners should be exempt. During this effort some correspondence had taken place between Egremont and Sybil, which he would willingly have encouraged and maintained; but it ceased nevertheless with its subject. Sybil, through the influential interference of Ursula Trafford, lived at the convent at York during the imprisonment of her father, and visited him daily.
The anxiety to take the veil which had once characterised Sybil had certainly waned. Perhaps her experience of life had impressed her with the importance of fulfilling vital duties. Her father, though he had never opposed her wish, had never encouraged it; and he had now increased and interesting claims on her devotion. He had endured great trials, and had fallen on adverse fortunes. Sybil would look at him, and though his noble frame was still erect and his countenance still displayed that mixture of frankness and decision which had distinguished it of yore, she could not conceal from herself that there were ravages which time could not have produced. A year and a half of imprisonment had shaken to its centre a frame born for action, and shrinking at all times from the resources of sedentary life. The disappointment of high hopes had jarred and tangled even the sweetness of his noble disposition. He needed solicitude and solace: and Sybil resolved that if vigilance and sympathy could soothe an existence that would otherwise be embittered, these guardian angels should at least hover over the life of her father.
When the term of his imprisonment had ceased, Gerard had returned with his daughter to Mowbray. Had he deigned to accept the offers of his friends, he need not have been anxious as to his future. A public subscription for his service had been collected: Morley, who was well to do in the world, for the circulation of the Mowbray Phalanx daily increased with the increasing sufferings of the people, offered his friend to share his house and purse: Hatton was munificent; there was no limit either to his offers or his proffered services. But all were declined; Gerard would live by labour. The post he had occupied at Mr Trafford’s was not vacant even if that gentleman had thought fit again to receive him; but his reputation as a first-rate artizan soon obtained him good employment, though on this occasion in the town of Mowbray, which for the sake of his daughter he regretted. He had no pleasant home now for Sybil, but he had the prospect of one, and until he obtained possession of it, Sybil sought a refuge, which had been offered to her from the first, with her kindest and dearest friend; so that at this period of our history, she was again an inmate of the convent at Mowbray, whither her father and Morley had attended her the eve of the day she had first visited the ruins of Marney Abbey.
“I have seen a many things in my time Mrs Trotman,” said Chaffing Jack as he took the pipe from his mouth in the silent bar room of the Cat and Fiddle; “but I never see any like this. I think I ought to know Mowbray if any one does, for man and boy I have breathed this air for a matter of half a century. I sucked it in when it tasted of primroses, and this tavern was a cottage covered with honeysuckle in the middle of green fields, where the lads came and drank milk from the cow with their lasses; and I have inhaled what they call the noxious atmosphere, when a hundred chimneys have been smoking like one; and always found myself pretty well. Nothing like business to give one an appetite. But when shall I feel peckish again, Mrs Trotman?”
“The longest lane has a turning they say, Mr Trotman.”
“Never knew anything like this before,” replied her husband, “and I have seen bad times: but I always used to say, ‘Mark my words friends, Mowbray will rally.’ My words carried weight, Mrs Trotman, in this quarter, as they naturally should, coming from a man of my experience — especially when I gave tick. Every man I chalked up was of the same opinion as the landlord of the Cat and Fiddle, and always thought that Mowbray would rally. That’s the killing feature of these times, Mrs Trotman, there’s no rallying in the place.”
“I begin to think it’s the machines,” said Mrs Trotman.
“Nonsense,” said Mr Trotman; “it’s the corn laws. The town of Mowbray ought to clothe the world with our resources. Why Shuffle and Screw can turn out forty mile of calico per day; but where’s the returns? That’s the point. As the American gentleman said who left his bill unpaid, ‘Take my breadstuffs and I’ll give you a cheque at sight on the Pennsylvanian Bank.’”
“It’s very true,” said Mrs Trotman. “Who’s there?”
“Nothing in my way?” said a woman with a basket of black cherries with a pair of tin scales thrown upon their top.
“Ah! Mrs Carey,” said Chaffing Jack, “is that you?”
“My mortal self, Mr Trotman, tho’ I be sure I feel more like a ghost than flesh and blood.”
“You may well say that Mrs Carey; you and I have known Mowbray as long I should think as any in this quarter —”
“And never see such times as these Mr Trotman, nor the like of such. But I always thought it would come to this; everything turned topsy-turvy as it were, the children getting all the wages, and decent folk turned adrift to pick up a living as they could. It’s something of a judgment in my mind, Mr Trotman.”
“It’s the trade leaving the county, widow, and no mistake.”
“And how shall we bring it back again?” said the widow; “the police ought to interfere.”
“We must have cheap bread,” said Mr Trotman.
“So they tell me,” said the widow; “but whether bread be cheap or dear don’t much signify, if we have nothing to buy it with. You don’t want anything in my way, neighbour? It’s not very tempting I fear,” said the good widow, in a rather mournful tone: “but a little fresh fruit cools the mouth in this sultry time, and at any rate it takes me into the world. It seems like business, tho’ very hard to turn a penny by; but one’s neighbours are very kind, and a little chat about the dreadful times always puts me in spirits.”
“Well, we will take a pound for the sake of trade, widow,” said Mrs Trotman.
“And here’s a glass of gin and water, widow,” said Mr Trotman, “and when Mowbray rallies you shall come and pay for it.”
“Thank you both very kindly,” said the widow, “a good neighbour as our minister says, is the pool of Bethesda; and as you say, Mowbray will rally.”
“I never said so,” exclaimed Chaffing Jack interrupting her. “Don’t go about for to say that I said Mowbray would rally. My words have some weight in this quarter widow; Mowbray rally! Why should it rally? Where’s the elements?”
“Where indeed?” said Devilsdust as he entered the Cat and Fiddle with Dandy Mick, “there is not the spirit of a louse in Mowbray.”
“That’s a true bill,” said Mick.
“Is there another white-livered town in the whole realm where the operatives are all working half-time, and thanking the Capitalists for keeping the mills going, and only starving them by inches?” said Devilsdust in a tone of scorn.
“That’s your time of day,” said Mick.
“Very glad to see you, gentlemen,” said Mr Trotman, “pray be seated. There’s a little baccy left yet in Mowbray, and a glass of twist at your service.”
“Nothing exciseable for me,” said Devilsdust.
“Well it ayn’t exactly the right ticket, Mrs Trotman, I believe,” said Mick, bowing gallantly to the lady; “but ‘pon my soul I am so thirsty, that I’ll take Chaffing Jack at his word;” and so saying Mick and Devilsdust ensconced themselves in the bar, while good-hearted Mrs Carey, sipped her glass of gin and water, which she frequently protested was a pool of Bethesda.
“Well Jack,” said Devilsdust, “I suppose you have heard the news?”
“If it be anything that has happened at Mowbray, especially in this quarter, I should think I had. Times must be very bad indeed that some one does not drop in to tell me anything that has happened and to ask my advice.”
“It’s nothing to do with Mowbray.”
“Thank you kindly, Mrs Trotman,” said Mick, “and here’s your very good health.”
“Then I am in the dark,” said Chaffing Jack, replying to the previous observation of Devilsdust, “for I never see a newspaper now except a week old, and that lent by a friend, I who used to take my Sun regular, to say nothing of the Dispatch, and Bell’s Life. Times is changed, Mr Radley.”
“You speak like a book, Mr Trotman,” said Mick, “and here’s your very good health. But as for newspapers, I’m all in the dark myself, for the Literary and Scientific is shut up, and no subscribers left, except the honorary ones, and not a journal to be had except the Moral World and that’s gratis.”
“As bad as the Temple,” said Chaffing Jack, “it’s all up with the institutions of the country. And what then is the news?”
“Labour is triumphant in Lancashire,” said Devilsdust with bitter solemnity.
“The deuce it is,” said Chaffing Jack. “What, have they raised wages?”
“No,” said Devilsdust, “but they have stopped the mills.”
“That won’t mend matters much,” said Jack with a puff.
“The working classes will have less to spend than ever.”
“And what will the Capitalists have to spend?” said Devilsdust. “Worse and worse,” said Mr Trotman, “you will never get institutions like the Temple reopened on this system.”
“Don’t you be afraid Jack,” said Mick, tossing off his tumbler; “if we only get our rights, won’t we have a blowout!”
“We must have a struggle,” said Devilsdust, “and teach the Capitalists on whom they depend, so that in future they are not to have the lion’s share, and then all will be right.”
“A fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work,” said Mick; “that’s your time of day.”
“It began at Staleybridge,” said Devilsdust, “and they have stopped them all; and now they have marched into Manchester ten thousand strong. They pelted the police —”
“And cheered the red-coats like blazes,” said Mick.
“The soldiers will fraternise,” said Devilsdust.
“Do what?” said Mrs Trotman.
“Stick their bayonets into the Capitalists who have hired them to cut the throats of the working classes,” said Devilsdust.
“The Queen is with us,” said Mick. “It’s well known she sets her face against gals working in mills like blazes.”
“Well this is news,” said Mrs Carey. “I always thought some good would come of having a woman on the throne;” and repeating her thanks and pinning on her shawl, the widow retired, eager to circulate the intelligence.
“And now that we are alone,” said Devilsdust, “the question is what are we to do here; and we came to consult you, Jack, as you know Mowbray better than any living man. This thing will spread. It won’t stop short. I have had a bird too singing something in my ear these two days past. If they do not stop it in Lancashire, and I defy them, there will be a general rising.”
“I have seen a many things in my time,” said Mr Trotman; “some risings and some strikes, and as stiff turn-outs as may be. But to my fancy there is nothing like a strike in prosperous times; there’s more money sent under those circumstances than you can well suppose, young gentlemen. It’s as good as Mowbray Staty any day.”
“But now to the point,” said Devilsdust. “The people are regularly sold; they want a leader.”
“Why there’s Gerard,” said Chaffing Jack; “never been a better man in my time. And Warner — the greatest man the Handlooms ever turned out.”
“Ay, ay,” said Devilsdust; “but they have each of them had a year and a half, and that cools blood.”
“Besides,” said Mick, “they are too old; and Stephen Morley has got round them, preaching moral force and all that sort of gammon.”
“I never heard that moral force won the battle of Waterloo,” said Devilsdust. “I wish the Capitalists would try moral force a little, and see whether it would keep the thing going. If the Capitalists will give up their red-coats, I would be a moral force man tomorrow.”
“And the new police,” said Mick. “A pretty go when a fellow in a blue coat fetches you the Devil’s own con on your head and you get moral force for a plaister.”
“Why, that’s all very well,” said Chaffing Jack: “but I am against violence — at least much. I don’t object to a moderate riot provided it is not in my quarter of the town.”
“Well that’s not the ticket now,” said Mick. “We don’t want no violence; all we want is to stop all the mills and hands in the kingdom, and have a regular national holiday for six weeks at least.”
“I have seen a many things in my time,” said Chaffing Jack solemnly, “but I have always observed that if the people had worked generally for half time for a week they would stand anything.”
“That’s a true bill,” said Mick.
“Their spirit is broken,” said Chaffing Jack, “or else they never would have let the Temple have been shut up.”
“And think of our Institute without a single subscriber!” said Mick. “The gals is the only thing what has any spirit left. Julia told me just now she would go to the cannon’s mouth for the Five Points any summer day.”
“You think the spirit can’t be raised, Chaffing Jack,” said Devilsdust very seriously. “You ought to be a judge.”
“If I don’t know Mowbray who does? Trust my word, the house won’t draw.”
“Then it is U-P,” said Mick.
“Hush!” said Devilsdust. “But suppose it spreads?”
“It won’t spread,” said Chaffing Jack. “I’ve seen a deal of these things. I fancy from what you say it’s a cotton squall. It will pass, Sir. Let me see the miners out and then I will talk to you.”
“Stranger things than that have happened,” said Devilsdust. “Then things get serious,” said Chaffing Jack. “Them miners is very stubborn, and when they gets excited ayn’t it a bear at play, that’s all?”
“Well,” said Devilsdust, “what you say is well worth attention; but all the same I feel we are on the eve of a regular crisis.”
“No, by jingo!” said Mick, and tossing his cap into the air he snapped his fingers with delight at the anticipated amusement.
“I don’t think I can stand this much longer,” said Mr Mountchesney, the son-in-law of Lord de Mowbray, to his wife, as he stood before the empty fire-place with his back to the mantelpiece and his hands thrust into the pockets of his coat. “This living in the country in August bores me to extinction. I think we will go to Baden, Joan.”
“But papa is so anxious, dearest Alfred, that we should remain here at present and see the neighbours a little.”
“I might be induced to remain here to please your father, but as for your neighbours I have seen quite enough of them. They are not a sort of people that I ever met before, or that I wish to meet again. I do not know what to say to them, nor can I annex an idea to what they say to me. Heigho! certainly the country in August is a thing of which no one who has not tried it has the most remote conception.”
“But you always used to say you doted on the country, Alfred,” said Lady Joan in a tone of tender reproach.
“So I do; I never was happier than when I was at Melton, and even enjoyed the country in August when I was on the Moors.”
“But I cannot well go to Melton,” said Lady Joan.
“I don’t see why you can’t. Mrs Shelldrake goes with her husband to Melton, and so does Lady Di with Barham; and a very pleasant life it is.”
“Well, at any rate we cannot go to Melton now,” said Lady Joan mortified; “and it is impossible for me to go to the Moors.”
“No, but I could go,” said Mr Mountchesney, “and leave you here. I might have gone with Eugene de Vere and Milford and Fitz-heron. They wanted me very much. What a capital party it would have been, and what capital sport we should have had! And I need not have been away for more than a month or perhaps six weeks, and I could have written to you every day and all that sort of thing.”
Lady Joan sighed and affected to recur to the opened volume which during this conversation she had held in her hand.
“I wonder where Maud is,” said Mr Mountchesney; “I shall want her to ride with me today. She is a capital horsewoman, and always amuses me. As you cannot ride now, Joan, I wish you would let Maud have Sunbeam.”
“As you please.”
“Well I am going to the stables and will tell them. Who is this?” Mr Mountchesney exclaimed, and then walked to the window that looking over the park showed at a distance the advance of a very showy equipage.
Lady Joan looked up.
“Come here, Joan, and tell me who this is,” and Lady Joan was at his side in a moment.
“It is the livery of the Bardolfs,” said Lady Joan.
“I always call them Firebrace; I cannot get out of it,” said Mr Mountchesney. “Well, I am glad it is they; I thought it might be an irruption of barbarians. Lady Bardolf will bring us some news.”
Lord and Lady Bardolf were not alone; they were accompanied by a gentleman who had been staying on a visit at Firebrace, and who, being acquainted with Lord de Mowbray, had paid his respects to the castle in his way to London. This gentleman was the individual who had elevated them to the peerage — Mr Hatton. A considerable intimacy had sprung up between him and his successful clients. Firebrace was an old place rebuilt in the times of the Tudors, but with something of its more ancient portions remaining, and with a storehouse of muniments that had escaped the civil wars. Hatton revelled in them, and in pursuing his researches, had already made discoveries which might perhaps place the coronet of the earldom of Lovel on the brow of the former champion of the baronetage, who now however never mentioned the Order. Lord de Mowbray was well content to see Mr Hatton, a gentleman in whom he did not repose the less confidence, because his advice given him three years ago, respecting the writ of right and the claim upon his estate had proved so discreet and correct. Acting on that advice Lord de Mowbray had instructed his lawyers to appear to the action without entering into any unnecessary explanation of the merits of his case. He counted on the accuracy of Mr Hatton’s judgment, that the claim would not be pursued; and he was right; after some fencing and preliminary manoeuvring, the claim had not been pursued. Lord de Mowbray therefore, always gracious, was disposed to accord a very distinguished reception to his confidential counsellor. He pressed very much his guests to remain with him some days, and though that was not practicable, Mr Hatton promised that he would not leave the neighbourhood without paying another visit to the castle.
“And you continue quiet here?” said Mr Hatton to Lord de Mowbray.
“And I am told we shall keep so,” said Lord de Mowbray. “The mills are mostly at work, and the men take the reduced wages in a good spirit. The fact is our agitators in this neighbourhood suffered pretty smartly in ‘39, and the Chartists have lost their influence.
“I am sorry for poor Lady St Julians,” said Lady Bardolf to Lady de Mowbray. “It must be such a disappointment, and she has had so many; but I understand there is nobody to blame but herself. If she had only left the Prince alone, but she would not be quiet!”
“And where are the Deloraines?”
“They are at Munich; with which they are delighted. And Lady Deloraine writes me that Mr Egremont has promised to join them there. If he do, they mean to winter at Rome.”
“Somebody said he was going to be married,” said Lady de Mowbray.
“His mother wishes him to marry,” said Lady Bardolf; “but I have heard nothing.”
Mr Mountchesney came in and greeted the Bardolfs with some warmth. “How delightful in the country in August to meet somebody that you have seen in London in June!” he exclaimed. “Now, dear Lady Bardolf do tell me something, for you can conceive nothing so triste as we are here. We never get a letter. Joan only corresponds with philosophers and Maud with clergymen; and none of my friends ever write to me.”
“Perhaps you never write to them?”
“Well, I never have been a letter writer; because really I never wanted to write or to be written to. I always knew what was going on because I was on the spot; I was doing the things that people were writing letters about — but now not being in the world any longer, doing nothing, living in the country — and the country in August — I should like to receive letters every day, but I do not know who to fix upon as a correspondent. Eugene de Vere will not write, Milford cannot; and as for Fitz-heron he is so very selfish, he always wants his letters answered.”
“That is very unreasonable,” said Lady Bardolf.
“Besides what can they tell me at this moment? They have gone to the Moors and are enjoying themselves. They asked me to go with them, but I could not go, because you see I could not leave Joan; though why I could not leave her, I really cannot understand, because Egerton has got some moors this year, and he leaves Lady Augusta with her father.”
Lady Maud entered the room in her bonnet, returning from an airing. She was all animation — charmed to see everybody; she had been to Mowbray to hear some singing at the Roman Catholic chapel in that town; a service had been performed and a collection made for the suffering workpeople of the place. She had been apprised of it for some days, was told that she would hear the most beautiful voice that she had ever listened to, but it had far exceeded her expectations. A female voice it seemed; no tones could be conceived more tender and yet more thrilling: in short seraphic.
Mr Mountchesney blamed her for not taking him. He liked music, singing, especially female singing; when there was so little to amuse him, he was surprised that Lady Maud had not been careful that he should have been present. His sister-in-law reminded him that she had particularly requested him to drive her over to Mowbray, and he had declined the honour as a bore.
“Yes,” said Mr Mountchesney, “but I thought Joan was going with you, and that you would be shopping.”
“It was a good thing our House was adjourned before these disturbances in Lancashire,” said Lord Bardolf to Lord de Mowbray.
“The best thing we can all do is to be on our estates I believe,” said Lord de Mowbray.
“My neighbour Marney is in a great state of excitement,” said Lord Bardolf; “all his yeomanry out.”
“But he is quiet at Marney?”
“In a way; but these fires puzzle us. Marney will not believe that the condition of the labourer has anything to do with them; and he certainly is a very acute man. But still I don’t know what to say to it. The poor-law is very unpopular in my parish. Marney will have it, that the incendiaries are all strangers hired by the anti-Corn-law League.”
“Ah! here is Lady Joan,” exclaimed Lady Bardolf, as the wife of Mr Mountchesney entered the room; “My dearest Lady Joan!”
“Why Joan,” said Mr Mountchesney, “Maud has been to Mowbray, and heard the most delicious singing. Why did we not go?”
“I did mention it to you, Alfred.”
“I remember you said something about going to Mowbray, and that you wanted to go to several places. But there is nothing I hate so much as shopping. It bores me more than anything. And you are so peculiarly long when you are shopping. But singing, and beautiful singing in a Catholic chapel by a woman; perhaps a beautiful woman, that is quite a different thing, and I should have been amused, which nobody seems ever to think of here. I do not know how you find it, Lady Bardolf, but the country to me in August is a something;"— and not finishing his sentence, Mr Mountchesney gave a look of inexpressible despair.
“And you did not see this singer?” said Mr Hatton, sidling up to Lady Maud, and speaking in a subdued tone.
“I did not, but they tell me she is most beautiful; something extraordinary; I tried to see her, but it was impossible.”
“Is she a professional singer?”
“I should imagine not; a daughter of one of the Mowbray people I believe.”
“Let us have her over to the Castle, Lady de Mowbray,” said Mr Mountchesney.
“If you like,” replied Lady de Mowbray, with a languid smile.
“Well at last I have got something to do,” said Mr Mountchesney. “I will ride over to Mowbray, find out the beautiful singer, and bring her to the Castle.”
The beam of the declining sun, softened by the stained panes of a small gothic window, suffused the chamber of the Lady Superior of the convent of Mowbray. The vaulted room, of very moderate dimensions, was furnished with great simplicity and opened into a small oratory. On a table were several volumes, an ebon cross was fixed in a niche, and leaning in a high-backed chair, sate Ursula Trafford. Her pale and refined complexion that in her youth had been distinguished for its lustre, became her spiritual office; and indeed her whole countenance, the delicate brow, the serene glance, the small aquiline nose, and the well-shaped mouth, firm and yet benignant, betokened the celestial soul that habited that gracious frame.
The Lady Superior was not alone; on a low seat by her side, holding her hand, and looking up into her face with a glance of reverential sympathy, was a maiden over whose head five summers have revolved since first her girlhood broke upon our sight amid the ruins of Marney Abbey, five summers that have realized the matchless promise of her charms, and while they have added something to her stature have robbed it of nothing of its grace, and have rather steadied the blaze of her beauty than diminished its radiance.
“Yes, I mourn over them,” said Sybil, “the deep convictions that made me look forward to the cloister as my home. Is it that the world has assoiled my soul? Yet I have not tasted of worldly joys; all that I have known of it has been suffering and tears. They will return, these visions of my sacred youth, dear friend, tell me that they will return!”
“I too have had visions in my youth, Sybil, and not of the cloister, yet am I here.”
“And what should I infer?” said Sybil enquiringly.
“That my visions were of the world, and brought me to the cloister, and that yours were of the cloister and have brought you to the world.”
“My heart is sad,” said Sybil, “and the sad should seek the shade.”
“It is troubled, my child, rather than sorrowful.”
Sybil shook her head.
“Yes, my child,” said Ursula, “the world has taught you that there are affections which the cloister can neither satisfy nor supply. Ah! Sybil, I too have loved.”
The blood rose to the cheek of Sybil, and then returned as quickly to the heart; her trembling hand pressed that of Ursula as she sighed and murmured, “No, no, no.”
“Yes, it is his spirit that hovers over your life, Sybil; and in vain you would forget what haunts your heart. One not less gifted than him; as good, as gentle, as gracious; once too breathed in my ear the accents of joy. He was, like myself, the child of an old house, and Nature had invested him with every quality that can dazzle and can charm. But his heart was as pure, and his soul as lofty, as his intellect and frame were bright — ” and Ursula paused.
Sybil pressed the hand of Ursula to her lips and whispered, “Speak on.”
“The dreams of by-gone days,” continued Ursula in a voice of emotion, “the wild sorrows than I can recall, and yet feel that I was wisely chastened. He was stricken in his virtuous pride, the day before he was to have led me to that altar where alone I found the consolation that never fails. And thus closed some years of human love, my Sybil,” said Ursula, bending forward and embracing her. “The world for a season crossed their fair current, and a power greater than the world forbade their banns; but they are hallowed; memory is my sympathy; it is soft and free, and when he came here to enquire after you, his presence and agitated heart recalled the past.”
“It is too wild a thought,” said Sybil, “ruin to him, ruin to all. No, we are severed by a fate as uncontrollable as severed you dear friend; ours is a living death.”
“The morrow is unforeseen,” said Ursula. “Happy indeed would it be for me, my Sybil, that your innocence should be enshrined within these holy walls, and that the pupil of my best years, and the friend of my serene life, should be my successor in this house. But I feel a deep persuasion that the hour has not arrived for you to take the step that never can be recalled.”
So saying, Ursula embraced and dismissed Sybil; for the conversation, the last passages of which we have given, had Occurred when Sybil according to her wont on Saturday afternoon had come to request the permission of the Lady Superior to visit her father.
It was in a tolerably spacious and not discomfortable chamber, the first floor over the printing-office of the Mowbray Phalanx, that Gerard had found a temporary home. He had not long returned from his factory, and pacing the chamber with a disturbed step, he awaited the expected arrival of his daughter.
She came; the faithful step, the well-known knock; the father and the daughter embraced; he pressed to his heart the child who had clung to him through so many trials, and who had softened so many sorrows, who had been the visiting angel in his cell, and whose devotion had led captivity captive.
Their meetings, though regular, were now comparatively rare. The sacred day united them, and sometimes for a short period the previous afternoon, but otherwise the cheerful hearth and welcome home were no longer for Gerard. And would the future bring them to him? And what was to be the future of his child? His mind vacillated between the convent of which she now seldom spoke, and which with him was never a cherished idea, and those dreams of restored and splendid fortunes which his sanguine temperament still whispered him, in spite of hope so long deferred and expectations so often baulked, might yet be realized. And sometimes between these opposing visions, there rose a third and more practical, though less picturesque result, the idea of her marriage. And with whom? It was impossible that one so rarely gifted and educated with so much daintiness, could ever make a wife of the people. Hatton offered wealth, but Sybil had never seemed to comprehend his hopes, and Gerard felt that their ill-assorted ages was a great barrier. There was of all the men of his own order but one, who from his years, his great qualities, his sympathy, and the nature of his toil and means, seemed not unfitted to be the husband of his daughter; and often had Gerard mused over the possibility of these intimate ties with Morley. Sybil had been, as it were, bred up under his eye; an affection had always subsisted between them, and he knew well that in former days Sybil had appreciated and admired the great talents and acquirements of their friend. At one period he almost suspected that Morley was attached to her. And yet, from causes which he had never attempted to penetrate, probably from a combination of unintentional circumstances, Sybil and Morley had for the last two or three years been thrown little together, and their intimacy had entirely died away. To Gerard it seemed that Morley had ever proved his faithful friend: Morley had originally dissuaded him with energy against that course which had led to his discomfiture and punishment; when arrested, his former colleague was his bail, was his companion and adviser during his trial; had endeavoured to alleviate his imprisonment; and on his release had offered to share his means with Gerard, and when these were refused, he at least supplied Gerard with a roof. And yet with all this, that abandonment of heart and brain, and deep sympathy with every domestic thought that characterized old days, was somehow or other wanting. There was on the part of Morley still devotion, but there was reserve.
“You are troubled, my father,” said Sybil, as Gerard continued to pace the chamber.
“Only a little restless. I am thinking what a mistake it was to have moved in ‘39.”
“Ah! you were right, Sybil,” continued Gerard; “affairs were not ripe. We should have waited three years.”
“Three years!” exclaimed Sybil, starting; “are affairs riper now?”
“The whole of Lancashire is in revolt,” said Gerard. “There is not a sufficient force to keep them in check. If the miners and colliers rise, and I have cause to believe that it is more than probable they will move before many days are past — the game is up.”
“You terrify me,” said Sybil.
“On the Contrary,” said Gerard, smiling, “the news is good enough; I’ll not say too good to be true, for I had it from one of the old delegates who is over here to see what can be done in our north countree.”
“Yes,” said Sybil inquiringly, and leading on her father.
“He came to the works; we had some talk. There are to be no leaders this time, at least no visible ones. The people will do it themselves. All the children of Labour are to rise on the same day, and to toil no more, till they have their rights. No violence, no bloodshed, but toil halts, and then our oppressors will learn the great economical truth as well as moral lesson, that when Toil plays Wealth ceases.”
“When Toil ceases the People suffer,” said Sybil. “That is the only truth that we have learnt, and it is a bitter one.”
“Can we be free without suffering,” said Gerard. “Is the greatest of human blessings to be obtained as a matter of course; to be plucked like fruit, or seized like a running stream? No, no: we must suffer, but we are wiser than of yore — we will not conspire. Conspiracies are for aristocrats, not for nations.”
“Alas, alas! I see nothing but woe,” said Sybil. “I cannot believe that after all that has passed, the people here will move: I cannot believe that after all that has passed, all that you, that we, have endured, that you, my father, will counsel them to move.”
“I counsel nothing,” said Gerard. “It must be a great national instinct that does it: but if all England, if Wales, if Scotland won’t work, is Mowbray to have a monopoly?”
“Ah! that’s a bitter jest,” said Sybil. “England, Wales, Scotland will be forced to work as they were forced before. How can they subsist without labour? And if they could, there is an organised power that will subdue them.”
“The Benefit Societies, the Sick and Burial Clubs, have money in the banks that would maintain the whole working classes, with aid in kind that will come, for six weeks, and that will do the business. And as for force, why there are not five soldiers to each town in the kingdom. It’s a glittering bugbear this fear of the military; simultaneous strikes would baffle all the armies in Europe.”
“I’ll go back and pray that all this is wild talk,” said Sybil earnestly. “After all that has passed, were it only for your child, you should not speak, much less think, this, my father. What havoc to our hearts and homes has been all this madness! It has separated us; it has destroyed our happy home; it has done more than this —” and here she wept.
“Nay, nay, my child,” said Gerard, coming up and soothing her; “one cannot weigh one’s words before those we love. I can’t hear of the people moving with coldness — that’s out of nature; but I promise you I’ll not stimulate the lads here. I am told they are little inclined to stir. You found me in a moment of what I must call I suppose elation; but I hear they beat the red-coats and police at Staley Bridge, and that pricked my blood a bit. I have been ridden down before this when I was a lad, Sybil, by Yeomanry hoofs. You must allow a little for my feelings.”
She extended her lips to the proffered embrace of her father. He blessed her and pressed her to his heart, and soothed her apprehensions with many words of softness. There was a knock at the door.
“Come in,” said Gerard. And there came in Mr Hatton.
They had not met since Gerard’s release from York Castle. There Hatton had visited him, had exercised his influence to remedy his grievances, and had more than once offered him the means of maintenance on receiving his freedom. There were moments of despondency when Gerard had almost wished that the esteem and regard with which Sybil looked upon Hatton might have matured into sentiments of a deeper nature; but on this subject the father had never breathed a word. Nor had Hatton, except to Gerard, ever intimated his wishes, for we could scarcely call them hopes. He was a silent suitor of Sybil, watching opportunities and ready to avail himself of circumstances which he worshipped. His sanguine disposition, fed by a very suggestive and inventive mind, and stimulated by success and a prosperous life, sustained him always to the last. Hatton always believed that everything desirable must happen if a man had energy and watched circumstances. He had confidence too in the influence of his really insinuating manner; his fine taste, his tender tone, his ready sympathy, all which masked his daring courage and absolute recklessness of means.
There were general greetings of the greatest warmth. The eyes of Hatton were suffused with tears as he congratulated Gerard on his restored health, and pressed Sybil’s hand with the affection of an old friend between both his own.
“I was down in this part of the world on business,” said Hatton, “and thought I would come over here for a day to find you all out.” And then after some general conversation he said “And where do you think I accidentally paid a visit a day or two back? At Mowbray Castle. I see you are surprised. I saw all your friends. I did not ask his Lordship how the writ of right went on. I dare say he thinks ’tis all hushed. But he is mistaken. I have learnt something which may help us over the stile yet.”
“Well-a-day,” said Gerard, “I once thought if I could get back the lands the people would at last have a friend; but that’s past. I have been a dreamer of dreams often when I was overlooking them at work. And so we all have I suppose. I would willingly give up my claim if I could be sure the Lancashire lads will not come to harm this bout.”
“’Tis a more serious business,” said Hatton, “than any thing of the kind that has yet happened. The government are much alarmed. They talk of sending the Guards down into the north, and bringing over troops from Ireland.”
“Poor Ireland!” said Gerard. “Well, I think the frieze-coats might give us a helping hand now, and employ the troops at least.”
“No, my dear father, say not such things.”
“Sybil will not let me think of these matters friend Hatton,” said Gerard smiling. “Well, I suppose it’s not in my way, at least I certainly did not make the best hand of it in ‘39; but it was London that got me into that scrape. I cannot help fancying that were I on our Moors here a bit with some good lads it might be different, and I must say so, I must indeed, Sybil.”
“But you are very quiet here I hope,” said Hatton.
“Oh! yes,” said Gerard, “I believe our spirit is sufficiently broken at Mowbray. Wages weekly dropping, and just work enough to hinder sheer idleness; that sort of thing keeps the people in very humble trim. But wait a bit, and when they have reached the starvation point I fancy we shall hear a murmur.”
“I remember our friend Morley in ‘39, when we returned from London, gave me a very good character of the disposition of the people here,” said Hatton; “I hope it continues the same. He feared no outbreak then, and the distress in ‘39 was severe.”
“Well,” said Gerard, “the wages have been dropping ever since. The people exist, but you can scarcely say they live. But they are cowed I fancy. An empty belly is sometimes as apt to dull the heart as inflame the courage. And then they have lost their leaders, for I was away you see, and have been quiet enough since I came out; and Warner is broken: he has suffered more from his time than I did; which is strange, for he had his pursuits; whereas I was restless enough, and that’s the truth, and had it not been for Sybil’s daily visit I think, though I may never be allowed to live in a castle, I should certainly have died in one.”
“And how is Morley?”
“Right well; the same as you left him: I saw not a straw’s change when I came out. His paper spreads. He still preaches moral force, and believes that we shall all end in living in communities. But as the only community of which I have personal experience is a gaol, I am not much more inclined to his theory than heretofore.”
The reader may not have altogether forgotten Mr Nixon and his comates, the miners and colliers of that district not very remote from Mowbray, which Morley had visited at the commencement of this history, in order to make fruitless researches after a gentleman whom he subsequently so unexpectedly stumbled upon. Affairs were as little flourishing in that region as at Mowbray itself, and the distress fell upon a population less accustomed to suffering and whose spirit was not daunted by the recent discomfiture and punishment of their leaders.
“It can’t last,” said Master Nixon as he took his pipe from his mouth at the Rising Sun.
He was responded to by a general groan. “It comes to this,” he continued, “Natur has her laws, and this is one; a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work.”
“I wish you may get it,” said Juggins, “with a harder stint every week and a shilling a day knocked off.”
“And what’s to come tomorrow?” said Waghorn. “The butty has given notice to quit in Parker’s field this day se’nnight. Simmons won’t drop wages, but works half time.”
“The boys will be at play afore long,” said a collier.
“Hush!” said Master Nixon with a reproving glance, “play is a very serious word. The boys are not to go to play as they used to do without by your leave or with your leave. We must appoint a committee to consider the question and we must communicate with the other trades.”
“You’re the man, Master Nixon, to choose for churchwarden,” replied the reproved miner with a glance of admiration.
“What is Diggs doing?” said Master Nixon in a solemn tone.
“A-dropping wages and a-raising tommy like fun,” said Master Waghorn.
“There is a great stir in Hell-house yard,” said a miner who entered the tap room at this moment, much excited. “They say that all the workshops will be shut tomorrow; not an order for a month past. They have got a top-sawyer from London there who addresses them every evening, and says that we have a right to four shillings a day wages, eight hours’ work and two pots of ale.”
“A fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work,” said Master Nixon. “I would not stickle about hours, but the money and the drink are very just.”
“If Hell-house yard is astir,” said Waghorn, “there will be a good deal to be seen yet.”
“It’s grave,” said Master Nixon. “What think you of a deputation there? It might come to good.”
“I should like to hear the top-sawyer from London,” said Juggins. “We had a Chartist here the other day, but he did not understand our case at all.”
“I heard him,” said Master Nixon, “but what’s his Five Points to us? Why he ayn’t got tommy among them.”
“Nor long stints,” said Waghorn.
“Nor butties,” said Juggins.
“He’s a pretty fellow to come and talk to us,” said a collier. “He had never been down a pit in all his life.”
The evening passed away in the tap room of the Rising Sun in reflections on the present critical state of affairs and in consultations as to the most expedient course for the future. The rate of wages which for several years in this district had undergone a continuous depression, had just received another downward impulse and was threatened with still further reduction, for the price of iron became every day lower in the market, and the article itself so little in demand that few but the great capitalists who could afford to accumulate their produce were able to maintain their furnaces in action. The little men who still continued their speculations could only do so partially, by diminishing the days of service and increasing their stints or toil and by decreasing the rate of wages as well as paying them entirely in goods, of which they had a great stock and of which they thus relieved themselves at a high profit. Add to all these causes of suffering and discontent among the workmen the apprehension of still greater evils and the tyranny of the butties or middlemen, and it will with little difficulty be felt that the public mind of this district was well-prepared for the excitement of the political agitator, especially if he were discreet enough rather to descant on their physical sufferings and personal injuries than to attempt the propagation of abstract political principles, with which it was impossible for them to sympathise with the impulse and facility of the inhabitants of manufacturing towns, members of literary and scientific institutes, habitual readers of political journals and accustomed to habits of discussion of all public questions. It generally happens however that where a mere physical impulse urges the people to insurrection, though it is often an influence of slow growth and movement, the effects are more violent and sometimes more obstinate than when they move under the blended authority of moral and physical necessity, and mix up together the rights and the wants of Man.
However this may be, on the morning after the conversation at the Rising Sun which we have just noticed, the population having as usual gone to their work, having penetrated the pit and descended the shaft, the furnaces all blazing, the chimneys all smoking — suddenly there rose a rumour even in the bowels of the earth, that the hour and the man had at length arrived; the hour that was to bring them relief and the man that was to bear them redress.
“My missus told it me at the pit-head when she brought me my breakfast,” said a pikeman to his comrade, and he struck a vigorous blow at the broadseam on which he was working.
“It is not ten mile,” said his companion. “They’ll be here by noon.”
“There is a good deal to do in their way,” said the first pikeman. “All men at work after notice to be ducked, they say, and every engine to be stopped forthwith.”
“Will the police meet them before they reach this?”
“There is none: my missus says that not a man John of them is to be seen. The Hell-cats as they call themselves halt at every town and offer fifty pounds for a live policeman.”
“I’ll tell you what,” said the second pikeman. “I’ll stop my stint and go up the shaft. My heart’s all of a flutter, I can’t work no more. We’ll have a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work yet.”
“Come along, I’m your man; if the doggy stop us, we’ll knock him down. The People must have their rights; we’re driven to this, but if one shilling a day is dropped, why not two?”
“Very true; the People must have their rights, and eight hours’ work is quite enough.”
In the light of day, the two miners soon learnt in more detail the news which the wife of one of them earlier in the morning had given as a rumour. There seemed now no doubt that the people of Wodgate, commonly called the Hell-cats, headed by their Bishop, had invaded in great force the surrounding district, stopped all the engines, turned all the potters out of the manufactories, met with no resistance from the authorities, and issued a decree that labour was to cease until the Charter was the law of the land.
This last edict was not the least surprising part of the whole affair; for no one could have imagined that the Bishop or any of his subjects had ever even heard of the Charter, much less that they could by any circumstances comprehend its nature, or by any means be induced to believe that its operation would further their interests or redress their grievances. But all this had been brought about, as most of the great events of history, by the unexpected and unobserved influence of individual character.
A Chartist leader had been residing for some time at Wodgate, ever since the distress had become severe, and had obtained great influence and popularity by assuring a suffering and half-starving population, that they were entitled to four shillings a day and two pots of ale, and only eight hours’ work. He was a man of abilities and of popular eloquence, and his representations produced an effect; their reception invested him with influence, and as he addressed a population who required excitement, being very slightly employed and with few resources for their vacant hours, the Chartist who was careful never to speak of the Charter became an important personage at Wodgate, and was much patronized by Bishop Hatton and his Lady, whose good offices he was sedulous to conciliate. At the right moment, everything being ripe and well prepared, the Bishop being very drunk and harassed by the complaints of his subjects, the Chartist revealed to him the mysteries of the Charter, and persuaded him not only that the Five Points would cure everything, but that he was the only man who could carry the Five Points. The Bishop had nothing to do; he was making a lock merely for amusement; he required action; he embraced the Charter, without having a definite idea what it meant, but he embraced it fervently, and he determined to march into the country at the head of the population of Wodgate, and establish the faith. Since the conversion of Constantine, a more important adoption had never occurred. The whole of the north of England, and a great part of the midland counties were in a state of disaffection; the entire country was suffering; hope had deserted the labouring classes; they had no confidence in any future of the existing system. Their organisation, independent of the political system of the Chartists, was complete. Every trade had its union, and every union its lodge in every town, and its central committee in every district. All that was required was the first move, and the Chartist emissary had long fixed upon Wodgate as the spring of the explosion, when the news of the strike in Lancashire determined him to precipitate the event.
The march of Bishop Hatton at the head of the Hell-cats into the mining districts was perhaps the most striking popular movement since the Pilgrimage of Grace. Mounted on a white mule, wall-eyed and of hideous form, the Bishop brandished a huge hammer with which he had announced he would destroy the enemies of the people: all butties, doggies, dealers in truck and tommy, middle masters and main masters. Some thousand Hell-cats followed him brandishing bludgeons, or armed with bars of iron, pickhandles, and hammers. On each side of the Bishop, on a donkey, was one of his little sons, as demure and earnest as if he were handling his file. A flowing standard of silk inscribed with the Charter, and which had been presented to him by the delegate, was borne before him like the oriflamme. Never was such a gaunt, grim crew. As they advanced their numbers continually increased, for they arrested all labour in their progress. Every engine was stopped, the plug was driven out of every boiler, every fire was extinguished, every man was turned out. The decree went forth that labour was to cease until the Charter was the law of the land: the mine and the mill, the foundry and the loom-shop were until that consummation to be idle: nor was the mighty pause to be confined to these great enterprises. Every trade of every kind and description was to be stopped: tailor and cobbler, brushmaker and sweep, tinker and carter, mason and builder, all, all; for all an enormous Sabbath that was to compensate for any incidental suffering that it induced by the increased means and the elevated condition it ultimately would insure — that paradise of artizans, that Utopia of Toil, embalmed in those ringing words, sounds cheerful to the Saxon race —“A fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work.”
During the strike in Lancashire the people had never plundered, except a few provision shops, chiefly rifled by boys, and their acts of violence had been confined to those with whom they were engaged in what on the whole might be described as fair contest. They solicited sustenance often in great numbers, but even then their language was mild and respectful, and they were easily satisfied and always grateful. A body of two thousand persons, for example — the writer speaks of circumstances within his own experience — quitted one morning a manufacturing town in Lancashire, when the strike had continued for some time and began to be severely felt, and made a visit to a neighbouring squire of high degree. They entered his park in order — men, women, and children — and then seating themselves in the immediate vicinity of the mansion, they sent a deputation to announce that they were starving and to entreat relief. In the instance in question, the lord of the domain was absent in the fulfilment of those public duties which the disturbed state of the country devolved on him. His wife, who had a spirit equal to the occasion, notwithstanding the presence of her young children who might well have aggravated feminine fears, received the deputation herself; told them that of course she was unprepared to feed so many, but that, if they promised to maintain order and conduct themselves with decorum, she would take measures to satisfy their need. They gave their pledge and remained tranquilly encamped while preparations were making to satisfy them. Carts were sent to a neighbouring town for provisions; the gamekeepers killed what they could, and in a few hours the multitude were fed without the slightest disturbance, or the least breach of their self-organised discipline. When all was over, the deputation waited again on the lady to express to her their gratitude, and the gardens of this house being of celebrity in the neighbourhood, they requested permission that the people might be allowed to walk through them, pledging themselves that no flower should be plucked and no fruit touched. The permission was granted: the multitude in order, each file under a chief and each commander of the files obedient to a superior officer, then made a progress through the beautiful gardens of their beautiful hostess. They even passed through the forcing houses and vineries. Not a border was trampled on, not a grape plucked; and when they quitted the domain, they gave three cheers for the fair castellan.
The Hell-cats and their following were of a different temper to these gentle Lancashire insurgents. They destroyed and ravaged; sacked and gutted houses; plundered cellars; proscribed bakers as enemies of the people; sequestrated the universal stores of all truck and tommy shops; burst open doors, broke windows, destroyed the gas works, that the towns at night might be in darkness; took union workhouses by storm, burned rate-books in the market-place, and ordered public distribution of loaves of bread and flitches of bacon to a mob — cheering and laughing amid flames and rapine. In short they robbed and rioted; the police could make no head against them; there was no military force; the whole district was in their possession: and hearing that a battalion of the Coldstreams were coming down by a train, the Bishop ordered all railroads to be destroyed, and if the Hell-cats had not been too drunk to do his bidding and he too tipsy to repeat it, it is probable that a great destruction of these public ways might have taken place.
Does the reader remember Diggs’ tommy shop? And Master Joseph? Well a terrible scene took place there. The Wodgate girl, with a back like a grasshopper, of the Baptist school religion, who had married Tummas, once a pupil of the Bishop and still his fervent follower, although he had cut open his pupil’s head, was the daughter of a man who had worked many years in Diggs’ field, had suffered much under his intolerable yoke, and at the present moment was deep in his awful ledger. She had heard from her first years of the oppression of Diggs and had impressed it on her husband, who was intolerant of any tyranny except at Wodgate. Tummas and his wife, and a few chosen friends, therefore went out one morning to settle the tommy-book of her father with Mr Diggs. A whisper of their intention had got about among those interested in the subject. It was a fine summer morning, some three hours from noon, the shop was shut, indeed it had not been opened since the riots, and all the lower windows of the dwelling were closed, barred, and bolted.
A crowd of women had collected. There was Mistress Page and Mistress Prance, old Dame Toddles and Mrs Mullins, Liza Gray and the comely dame who was so fond of society that she liked even a riot.
“Master Joseph they say has gone to the North,” said the comely dame.
“I wonder if old Diggs is at home?” said Mrs Mullins.
“He won’t show I’ll be sworn,” said old Dame Toddles.
“Here are the Hell-cats,” said the comely dame. “Well I do declare they march like reglars; two, four, six, twelve; a good score at the least.”
The Hell-cats briskly marched up to the elm-trees that shaded the canal before the house, and then formed in line opposite to it. They were armed with bludgeons, crowbars, and hammers. Tummas was at the head and by his side his Wodgate wife. Stepping forth alone, amid the cheering of the crowd of women, the pupil of the Bishop advanced to the door of Diggs’ house, gave a loud knock and a louder ring. He waited patiently for several minutes; there was no reply from the interior, and then Tummas knocked and rang again.
“It’s very awful,” said the comely dame.
“It’s what I always dreamt would come to pass,” said Liza Gray, “ever since Master Joseph cut my poor baby over the eye with his three foot rule.”
“I think there can be nobody within,” said Mrs Prance.
“Old Diggs would never leave the tommy without a guard,” said Mrs Page.
“Now lads,” said Tummas looking round him and making a sign, and immediately some half dozen advanced with their crowbars and were about to strike at the door, when a window in the upper story of the house opened and the muzzle of a blunderbuss was presented at the assailants.
The women all screamed and ran away.
“’Twas Master Joseph,” said the comely dame halting to regain her breath.
“’Twas Master Joseph,” sighed Mrs Page.
“’Twas Master Joseph,” moaned Mrs Prance.
“Sure enough,” said Mrs Mullins, “I saw his ugly face.”
“More frightful than the great gun,” said old Dame Toddles.
“I hope the children will get out of the way,” said Liza Gray, “for he is sure to fire on them.”
In the meantime, while Master Joseph himself was content with his position and said not a word, a benignant countenance exhibited itself at the window and requested in a mild voice to know, “What his good friends wanted there?”
“We have come to settle Sam Barlow’s tommy book,” said their leader.
“Our shop is not open today my good friends: the account can stand over; far be it from me to press the poor.”
“Master Diggs,” said a Hell-cat, “canst thou tell us the price of bacon today?”
“Well, good bacon,” said the elder Diggs willing to humour them, “may be eightpence a-pound.”
“Thou are wrong Master Diggs,” said the Hell-cat, “’tis fourpence and long credit. Let us see half a dozen good flitches at fourpence, Master Diggs; and be quick.”
There was evidently some controversy in the interior as to the course at this moment to be pursued. Master Joseph remonstrated against the policy of concession, called conciliation, which his father would fain follow, and was for instant coercion; but age and experience carried the day, and in a few minutes some flitches were thrown out of the window to the Hell-cats who received the booty with a cheer.
The women returned.
“’Tis the tenpence a-pound flitch,” said the comely dame examining the prize with a sparkling glance.
“I have paid as much for very green stuff,” said Mrs Mullins.
“And now Master Diggs,” said Tummas, “what is the price of the best tea a-pound? We be good customers, and mean to treat our wives and sweethearts here. I think we must order half a chest.”
This time there was a greater delay in complying with the gentle hint; but the Hell-cats getting obstreperous, the tea was at length furnished and divided among the women. This gracious office devolved on the wife of Tummas who soon found herself assisted by a spontaneous committee of which the comely dame was the most prominent and active member. Nothing could be more considerate, good-natured, and officious, than the mode and spirit with which she divided the stores. The flitches were cut up and apportioned in like manner. The scene was as gay and hustling as a fair.
“It’s as good as a grand tommy day,” said the comely dame with a self-complacent smile as she strutted about smiling and dispensing patronage.
The orders for bacon and tea were followed by a very popular demand for cheese. The female committee received all the plunder and were very active in its distribution. At length a rumour got about that Master Joseph was entering the names of all present in the tommy books, so that eventually the score might be satisfied. The mob had now very much increased. There was a panic among the women, and indignation among the men: a Hell-cat advanced and announced that unless the tommy books were all given up to be burnt, they would pull down the house. There was no reply: some of the Hell-cats advanced; the women cheered; a crowbar fell upon the door; Master Joseph fired, wounded a woman and killed a child.
There rose one of those universal shrieks of wild passion which announce that men have discarded all the trammels of civilization, and found in their licentious rage new and unforseen sources of power and vengeance. Where it came from, how it was obtained, who prompted the thought, who first accomplished it, were alike impossible to trace; but as it were in a moment, a number of trusses of straw were piled up before the house and set on fire, the gates of the timber-yard were forced, and a quantity of scantlings and battens soon fed the flame. Everything indeed that could stimulate the fire was employed; and every one was occupied in the service. They ran to the water side and plundered the barges, and threw the huge blocks of coal upon the enormous bonfire. Men, women, and children were alike at work with the eagerness and energy of fiends. The roof of the house caught fire: the dwelling burned rapidly; you could see the flames like the tongues of wild beasts, licking the bare and vanishing walls; a single being was observed amid the fiery havoc, shrieking and desperate he clung convulsively to a huge account book, It was Master Joseph. His father had made his escape from the back of the premises and had counselled his son instantly to follow him, but Master Joseph wished to rescue the ledger as well as their lives, and the delay ruined him.
“He has got the tommy book,” cried Liza Gray.
The glare of the clear flame fell for a moment upon his countenance of agony; the mob gave an infernal cheer; then some part of the building falling in, there rose a vast cloud of smoke and rubbish, and he was seen no more.
“Life’s a tumbleabout thing of ups and downs,” said Widow Carey stirring her tea, “but I have been down this time longer than I can ever remember.”
“Nor ever will get up, Widow,” said Julia at whose lodgings herself and several of Julia’s friends had met, “unless we have the Five Points.”
“I will never marry any man who is not for the Five Points,” said Caroline.
“I should be ashamed to marry any one who had not the suffrage,” said Harriet.
“He is no better than a slave,” said Julia.
The widow shook her head. “I don’t like these politics,” said the good woman, “they bayn’t in a manner business for our sex.”
“And I should like to know why?” said Julia. “Ayn’t we as much concerned in the cause of good government as the men? And don’t we understand as much about it? I am sure the Dandy never does anything without consulting me.”
“It’s fine news for a summer day,” said Caroline, “to say we can’t understand politics with a Queen on the throne.”
“She has got her ministers to tell her what to do,” said Mrs Carey, taking a pinch of snuff. “Poor innocent young creature, it often makes my heart ache to think how she is beset.”
“Over the left,” said Julia. “If the ministers try to come into her bed-chamber, she knows how to turn them to the right about.”
“And as for that,” said Harriet, “why are we not to interfere with politics as much as the swell ladies in London?”
“Don’t you remember, too, at the last election here,” said Caroline, “how the fine ladies from the Castle came and canvassed for Colonel Rosemary?”
“Ah!” said Julia, “I must say I wish the Colonel had beat that horrid Muddlefist. If we can’t have our own man, I am all for the Nobs against the Middle Class.”
“We’ll have our own man soon, I expect,” said Harriet. “If the people don’t work, how are the aristocracy to pay the police?”
“Only think!” said Widow Carey shaking her head. “Why, at your time of life, my dears, we never even heard of these things, much less talked of them.”
“I should think you didn’t, widow, and because why?” said Julia; “because there was no march of mind then. But we know the time of day now as well as any of them.”
“Lord, my dear,” said Mrs Carey; “what’s the use of all that? What we want is, good wages and plenty to do; and as for the rest, I don’t grudge the Queen her throne, nor the noblemen and gentlemen their good things. Live and let live say I.”
“Why, you are a regular oligarch, widow,” said Harriet.
“Well, Miss Harriet,” replied Mrs Carey, a little nettled; “‘tisn’t calling your neighbours names that settles any question. I’m quite sure that Julia will agree to that, and Caroline too. And perhaps I might call you something if I chose, Miss Harriet; I’ve heard things said before this, that I should blush to say, and blush to hear too. But I won’t demean myself, no I won’t. Holly-hock, indeed! Why holly-hock?”
At this moment entered the Dandy and Devilsdust.
“Well young ladies,” said the Dandy. “A-swelling the receipt of customs by the consumption of Congo! That won’t do, Julia; it won’t, indeed. Ask Dusty. If you want to beat the enemy, you must knock up the revenue. How d’ye do, widow?”
“The same to you, Dandy Mick. We is deploring the evils of the times here in a neighbourly way.”
“Oh, the times will soon mend,” said the Dandy gaily. “Well, so I think,” said the widow; “for when things are at the worst, they always say —”
“But you always say they cannot mend, Mick,” said Julia interrupting her.
“Why in a sense, Julia, in a certain sense, you are right; but there are two senses to everything, my girl,” and Mick began singing, and then executed a hornpipe to the gratification of Julia and her guests.
“’Tis genteel,” said Mick, receiving their approbation. “You remember it at the Circus?”
“I wonder when we shall have the Circus again?” said Caroline.
“Not with the present rate of wages,” said Devilsdust.
“It’s very hard,” said Caroline, “that the Middle Class are always dropping our wages. One really has no amusements now. How I do miss the Temple!”
“We’ll have the Temple open again before long,” said the Dandy.
“That will be sweet,” exclaimed Caroline. “I often dream of that foreign nobleman who used to sing, ‘Oh, no, we never!’”
“Well, I cannot make out what puts you in such spirits, Mick,” said Julia. “You told me only this morning that the thing was up, and that we should soon be slaves for life; working sixteen hours a day for no wages, and living on oatmeal porridge and potatoes, served out by the millocrats like a regular Bastile.”
“But, as Madam Carey says, when things are at the worst —”
“Oh! I did say it,” said the widow, “surely, because you see, at my years, I have seen so many ups and downs, though I always say —”
“Come, Dusty,” said Julia, “you are more silent than ever. You won’t take a dish I know: but tell us the news, for I am sure you have something to say.”
“I should think we had,” said Dusty.
Here all the girls began talking at the same time, and without waiting for the intelligence, favouring one another with their guesses of its import.
“I am sure it’s Shuffle and Screw going to work half time,” said Harriet. “I always said so.”
“It’s something to put down the people,” said Julia: “I suppose the Nobs have met, and are going to drop wages again.”
“I think Dusty is going to be married,” said Caroline.
“Not at this rate of wages I should hope,” said Mrs Carey, getting in a word.
“I should think not,” said Devilsdust. “You are a sensible woman, Mrs Carey. And I don’t know exactly what you mean, Miss Caroline,” he added, a little confused. For Devilsdust was a silent admirer of Caroline, and had been known to say to Mick, who told Julia, who told her friend, that if he ever found time to think of such things, that was the sort of girl he should like to make the partner of his life.
“But Dusty,” said Julia, “now what is it?”
“Why, I thought you all knew,” said Mick.
“Now, now,” said Julia, “I hate suspense. I like news to go round like a fly-wheel.”
“Well,” said Devilsdust, dryly, “this is Saturday, young women, and Mrs Carey too, you will not deny that.”
“I should think not,” said Mrs Carey, “by the token I kept a stall for thirty year in our market, and never gave it up till this summer, which makes me always think that, though I have seen many ups and downs, this —”
“Well, what has Saturday to do with us?” said Caroline; “for neither Dandy Mick nor you can take us to the Temple, or any other genteel place, since they are all shut from the Corn Laws, or some other cause or other.”
“I believe it’s the machines more than the Corn Laws that have shut up the Temple,” said Harriet. “Machines, indeed! Fancy preferring a piece of iron or wood to your own flesh and blood. And they call that Christianlike!”
“It is Saturday,” said Julia, “sure enough; and if I don’t lie in bed tomorrow till sunset, may I get a bate ticket for every day for a week to come.”
“Well, go it my hearty,” said Mick to Devilsdust. “It is Saturday, that they have all agreed.”
“And tomorrow is Sunday,” said Devilsdust solemnly. “And the next day is the blackest day in all the week,” said Julia. “When I hear the factory bell on Monday morning, I feel just the same as I did when I crossed with my uncle from Liverpool to Seaton to eat shrimps. Wasn’t I sick coming home, that’s all!”
“You won’t hear that bell sound next Monday,” said Devilsdust solemnly.
“You don’t mean that?” said Julia.
“Why, what’s the matter?” said Caroline. “Is the Queen dead?”
“No bell on Monday morning,” said Mrs Carey, incredulously.
“Not a single ring if all the Capitalists in Mowbray were to pull together at the same rope,” said Devilsdust.
“What can it be?” said Julia. “Come, Mick; Dusty is always so long telling us anything.”
“Why we are going to have the devil’s own strike,” said Mick unable any longer to contain himself and dancing with glee.
“A strike!” said Julia.
“I hope they will destroy the machines,” said Harriet.
“And open the Temple,” said Caroline, “or else it will be very dull.”
“I have seen a many strikes,” said the widow, “but as Chaffing Jack was saying to me the other day —”
“Chaffing Jack be hanged,” said Mick. “Such a slow coach won’t do in these high-pressure times. We are going to do the trick and no mistake. There shan’t be a capitalist in England who can get a day’s work out of us, even if he makes the operatives his junior partners.”
“I never heard of such things,” said Mrs Carey in amazement.
“It’s all booked, though,” said Devilsdust. “We’ll clean out the Savings’ Banks; the Benefits and Burials will shell out. I am treasurer of the Ancient Shepherds, and we passed a resolution yesterday unanimously, that we would devote all our funds to the sustenance of Labour in this its last and triumphant struggle against Capital.”
“Lor!” said Caroline, “I think it will be very jolly.”
“As long as you can give us money, I don’t care, for my part, how long we stick out,” said Julia.
“Well,” said Mrs Carey, “I didn’t think there was so much spirit in the place. As Chaffing Jack was saying the other day —”
“There is no spirit in the place,” said Devilsdust, “but we mean to infuse some. Some of our friends are going to pay you a visit tomorrow.”
“And who may they be?” said Caroline.
“To-morrow is Sunday,” said Devilsdust, “and the miners mean to say their prayers in Mowbray Church.”
“Well, that will be a shindy!” said Caroline.
“It’s a true bill, though,” said Mick. “This time tomorrow you will have ten thousand of them in this town, and if every mill and work in it and ten mile round is not stopped, my name is not MICK RADLEY!”
It was Monday morning. Hatton, enveloped in his chamber robe and wearing his velvet cap, was lounging in the best room of the principal commercial inn of Mowbray, over a breakfast table covered with all the delicacies of which a northern matin meal may justly boast. There were pies of spiced meat and trout fresh from the stream, hams that Westphalia never equalled, pyramids of bread of every form and flavour adapted to the surrounding fruits, some conserved with curious art, and some just gathered from the bed or from the tree.
“It’s very odd,” said Hatton to his companion Morley, “you can’t get coffee anywhere.”
Morley who had supposed that coffee was about the commonest article of consumption in Mowbray, looked a little surprised; but at this moment Hatton’s servant entered with a mysterious yet somewhat triumphant air, and ushering in a travelling biggin of their own fuming like one of the springs of Geyser.
“Now try that,” said Hatton to Morley, as the servant poured him out a cup; “you won’t find that so bad.”
“Does the town continue pretty quiet?” enquired Morley of the servant as he was leaving the room.
“Quite quiet I believe, Sir; but a great many people in the streets. All the mills are stopped.”
“Well, this is a strange business,” said Hatton when they were once more alone. “You had no idea of it when I met you on Saturday?”
“None; on the contrary, I felt convinced that there were no elements of general disturbance in this district. I thought from the first that the movement would be confined to Lancashire and would easily be arrested; but the feebleness of the government, the want of decision, perhaps the want of means, have permitted a flame to spread the extinction of which will not soon be witnessed.”
“Do you mean that?”
“Whenever the mining population is disturbed the disorder is obstinate. On the whole they endure less physical suffering than most of the working classes, their wages being considerable; and they are so brutalized that they are more difficult to operate on than our reading and thinking population of the factories. But when they do stir there is always violence and a determined course. When I heard of their insurrection on Saturday I was prepared for great disturbances in their district, but that they should suddenly resolve to invade another country as it were, the seat of another class of labour, and where the hardships however severe are not of their own kind, is to me amazing, and convinces me that there is some political head behind the scenes, and that this move, however unintentional on the part of the miners themselves, is part of some comprehensive scheme which, by widening the scene of action and combining several counties and classes of labour in the broil, must inevitably embarrass and perhaps paralyse the Government.”
“There is a good deal in what you say,” said Hatton, taking a strawberry with a rather absent air, and then he added, “You remember a conversation we once had, the eve of my departure from Mowbray in ‘39?”
“I do,” said Morley reddening.
“The miners were not so ready then,” said Hatton.
“They were not,” said Morley speaking with some confusion.
“Well they are here now,” said Hatton.
“They are,” said Morley thoughtfully, but more collected.
“You saw them enter yesterday?” said Hatton. “I was sorry I missed it, but I was taking a walk with the Gerards up Dale to see the cottage where they once lived, and which they used to talk of so much! Was it a strong body?”
“I should say about two thousand men, and as far as bludgeons and iron staves go, armed.”
“A formidable force with no military to encounter them.”
“Irresistible, especially with a favourable population.”
“You think the people were not grieved to see them?”
“Certainly. Left alone they might have remained quiet; but they only wanted the spark. We have a number of young men here who have for a long time been murmuring against our inaction and what they call want of spirit. The Lancashire strike set them all agog; and had any popular leader, Gerard for example or Warner, resolved to move, they were ready.”
“The times are critical,” said Hatton wheeling his arm-chair from the table and resting his feet on the empty fire-place. “Lord de Mowbray had no idea of all this. I was with him on my way here, and found him quite tranquil. I suppose the invasion of yesterday has opened his eyes a little.”
“What can he do?” said Morley. “It is useless to apply to the Government. They have no force to spare. Look at Lancashire; a few dragoons and rifles hurried about from place to place and harassed by night service; always arriving too late, and generally attacking the wrong point, some diversion from the main scheme. Now we had a week ago some of the 17th Lancers here. They have been marched into Lancashire. Had they remained the invasion would never have occurred.”
“You haven’t a soldier at hand?”
“Not a man; they have actually sent for a party of 73d from Ireland to guard us. Mowbray may be burnt before they land.”
“And the castle too,” said Hatton quietly. “These are indeed critical times Mr Morley. I was thinking when walking with our friend Gerard yesterday, and hearing him and his charming daughter dilate upon the beauties of the residence which they had forfeited, I was thinking what a strange thing life is, and that the fact of a box of papers belonging to him being in the possession of another person who only lives close by, for we were walking through Mowbray woods —”
But at this moment a waiter entered and said there was one without who wished to speak with Mr Morley.
“Let him come up,” said Hatton, “he will give us some news perhaps.”
And there was accordingly shown up a young man who had been a member of the Convention in ‘39 with Morley, afterwards of the Secret Council with Gerard, the same young man who had been the first arrested on the night that Sybil was made a prisoner, having left the scene of their deliberations for a moment in order to fetch her some water. He too had been tried, convicted, and imprisoned, though for a shorter time than Gerard; and he was the Chartist Apostle who had gone and resided at Wodgate, preached the faith to the barbarians, converted them, and was thus the primary cause of the present invasion of Mowbray.
“Ah! Field,” said Morley, “is it you?”
“You are surprised to see me;” and then the young man looked at Hatton.
“A friend,” said Morley; “speak as you like.”
“Our great man, the leader and liberator of the people,” said Field with a smile, “who has carried all before him, and who I verily believe will carry all before him, for Providence has given him those superhuman energies which can alone emancipate a race, wishes to confer with you on the state of this town and neighbourhood. It has been represented to him that no one is more knowing and experienced than yourself in this respect; besides as the head of our most influential organ in the Press, it is in every way expedient that you should see him. He is at this moment below giving instructions and receiving reports of the stoppage of all the country works, but if you like I will bring him up here, we shall be less disturbed.”
“By all means,” said Hatton who seemed to apprehend that Morley would make some difficulties. “By all means.”
“Stop;” said Morley, “have you seen Gerard?”
“No,” said Field. “I wrote to him some time back, but his reply was not encouraging. I thought his spirit was perhaps broken.”
“You know that he is here?”
“I concluded so, but we have not seen him; though to be sure, we have seen so many, and done so much since our arrival yesterday, it is not wonderful. By the bye, who is this blackcoat you have here, this St Lys? We took possession of the church yesterday on our arrival, for it’s a sort of thing that pleases the miners and colliers wonderfully, and I always humour them. This St Lys preached us such a sermon that I was almost afraid at one time the game would be spoiled. Our great man was alarmingly taken by it, was saying his prayers all day and had nearly marched back again: had it not been for the excellence of the rum and water at our quarters, the champion of the Charter would have proved a pious recreant.”
“St Lys will trouble you,” said Morley. “Alas! for poor human nature, when violence can only be arrested by superstition.”
“Come don’t you preach,” said the Chartist. “The Charter is a thing the people can understand, especially when they are masters of the country; but as for moral force, I should like to know how I could have marched from Wodgate to Mowbray with that on my banner.”
“Wodgate,” said Morley, “that’s a queer place.”
“Wodgate,” said Hatton, “what Wodgate is that?”
At this moment a great noise sounded without the room, the door was banged, there seemed a scuttling, some harsh high tones, the deprecatory voices of many waiters. The door was banged again and this time flew open, while exclaiming in an insolent coarse voice, “Don’t tell me of your private rooms; who is master here I should like to know?” there entered a very thickset man, rather under the middle size, with a brutal and grimy countenance, wearing the unbuttoned coat of a police serjeant conquered in fight, a cocked hat, with a white plume, which was also a trophy of war, a pair of leather breeches and topped boots, which from their antiquity had the appearance of being his authentic property. This was the leader and liberator of the people of England. He carried in his hand a large hammer which he had never parted with during the whole of the insurrection; and stopping when he had entered the room, and surveying its inmates with an air at once stupid and arrogant, recognizing Field the Chartist, he halloed out, “I tell you I want him. He’s my Lord Chancellor and Prime Minister, my head and principal Doggy; I can’t go on without him. Well, what do you think,” he said advancing to Field, “here’s a pretty go! They won’t stop the works at the big country mill you were talking of. They won’t, won’t they? Is my word the law of the land or is it not? Have I given my commands that all labour shall cease till the Queen sends me a message that the Charter is established, and is a man who has a mill, to shut his gates upon my forces, and pump upon my people with engines? There shall be fire for this water;” and so saying the Liberator sent his hammer with such force upon the table, that the plate and porcelain and accumulated luxuries of Mr Hatton’s breakfast perilously vibrated.
“We will enquire into this, Sir,” said Field, “and we will take the necessary steps.”
“We will enquire into this and we will take the necessary steps,” said the Liberator, looking round with an air of pompous stupidity, and then taking up some peaches, he began devouring them with considerable zest.
“Would the Liberator like to take some breakfast?” said Mr Hatton.
The Liberator looked at his host with a glance of senseless intimidation, and then as if not condescending to communicate directly with ordinary men, he uttered in a more subdued tone to the Chartist these words, “Glass of ale.”
Ale was instantly ordered for the Liberator, who after a copious draught assumed a less menacing air, and smacking his lips, pushed aside the dishes, and sate down on the table swinging his legs.
“This is my friend of whom I spoke and whom you wished to see, Sir,” said the Chartist, “the most distinguished advocate of popular rights we possess, the editor of the Mowbray Phalanx, Mr Morley.”
Morley slightly advanced, he caught the Liberator’s eye, who scrutinized him with extreme earnestness, and then jumping from the table shouted; “Why this is the muff that called on me in Hell-house Yard three years ago.”
“I had that honour,” said Morley quietly.
“Honour be hanged,” said the Bishop, “you know something about somebody; I couldn’t squeeze you then, but by G— I will have it out of you now. Now, cut it short; have you seen him, and where does he live?”
“I came then to gain information, not to give it,” said Morley. “I had a friend who wished much to see this gentleman —”
“He ayn’t no gentleman,” said the Bishop; “he’s my brother: but I tell you what, I’ll do something for him now. I’m cock of the walk you see, and that’s a sort of thing that don’t come twice in a man’s life. One should feel for one’s flesh and blood, and if I find him out I’ll make his fortune, or my name is not Simon Hatton.”
The creator and counsellor of peers started in his chair and turned pale. A look was interchanged between him and Morley which revealed their mutual thoughts, and the great antiquary — looking at the Liberator with a glance of blended terror and disgust — walked away to the window.
“Suppose you put an advertisement in your paper,” continued the Bishop. “I know a traveller who lost his keys at the Yard and got them back again by those same means. Go on advertising till you find him, and my prime minister and principal doggy here shall give you an order on the town council for your expenses.”
Morley bowed his thanks in silence.
The Bishop continued —“What’s the name of the man who has got the big mill here, about three mile off, who won’t stop his works and ducked my men this morning with his engines. I’ll have fire I say for that water — do you hear that Master Newspaper — I’ll have fire for that water before I am many hours older.”
“The Liberator means Trafford,” said the Chartist.
“I’ll Trafford him,” said the Liberator and he struck the table with his hammer. “He ducks my messenger does he? I tell you I’ll have fire for that water,” and he looked around him as if he courted some remonstrance in order that he might crush it.
“Trafford is a humane man,” said Morley in a quiet tone, “and behaves well to his people.”
“A man with a big mill humane!” exclaimed the Bishop; “with two or three thousand slaves working under the same roof, and he doing nothing but eating their vitals. I’ll have no big mills where I’m main master. Let him look to it. Here goes,” and he jumped off the table. “Before an hour I’ll pay this same Trafford a visit and I’ll see whether he’ll duck me. Come on my prime Doggy,” and nodding to the Chartist to follow him, the Liberator left the room.
Hatton turned his head from the window, and advanced quickly to Morley. “To business, friend Morley. This savage can-not be quiet for a moment; he exists only in destruction and rapine. If it were not Trafford’s mill it would be something else. I am sorry for the Traffords; they have old blood in their veins. Before sunset their settlement will be razed to the ground. Can we prevent it? And why not attack the castle instead of the mill?”
About noon of this day there was a great stir in Mowbray. It was generally whispered about that the Liberator at the head of the Hell-cats and all others who chose to accompany them was going to pay a visit to Mr Trafford’s settlement, in order to avenge an insult which his envoys had experienced early in the morning when, accompanied by a rabble of two or three hundred persons, they had repaired to the Mowedale works in order to signify the commands of the Liberator that labour should stop, and if necessary to enforce those commands. The injunctions were disregarded, and when the mob in pursuance of their further instructions began to force the great gates of the premises, in order that they might enter the building, drive the plugs out of the steam-boilers, and free the slaves enclosed, a masqued battery of powerful engines was suddenly opened upon them, and the whole band of patriots were deluged. It was impossible to resist a power which seemed inexhaustible, and wet to the skins and amid the laughter of their adversaries they fled. This ridiculous catastrophe had terribly excited the ire of the Liberator. He vowed vengeance, and as, like all great revolutionary characters and military leaders, the only foundation of his power was constant employment for his troops and constant excitement for the populace, he determined to place himself at the head of the chastising force, and make a great example which should establish his awful reputation and spread the terror of his name throughout the district.
Field the Chartist had soon discovered who were the rising spirits of Mowbray, and Devilsdust and Dandy Mick were both sworn on Monday morning of the council of the Liberator, and took their seats at the board accordingly. Devilsdust, used to public business and to the fulfilment of responsible duties, was calm and grave, but equally ready and determined. Mick’s head on the contrary was quite turned by the importance of his novel position. He was greatly excited, could devise nothing and would do anything, always followed Devilsdust in council, but when he executed their joint decrees and showed himself about the town, he strutted like a peacock, swore at the men and winked at the girls, and was the idol and admiration of every gaping or huzzaing younker.
There was a large crowd assembled in the Market Place, in which were the Liberator’s lodgings, many of them armed in their rude fashion, and all anxious to march. Devilsdust was with the great man and Field; Mick below was marshalling the men, and swearing like a trooper at all who disobeyed or who misunderstood.
“Come stupid,” said he addressing Tummas, “what are you staring about? Get your men in order or I’ll be among you.”
“Stupid!” said Tummas, staring at Mick with immense astonishment. “And who are you who says ‘Stupid?’ A white-livered Handloom as I dare say, or a son of a gun of a factory slave. Stupid indeed! What next, when a Hell-cat is to be called stupid by such a thing as you?”
“I’ll give you a piece of advice young man,” said Master Nixon taking his pipe out of his mouth and blowing an immense puff; “just you go down the shaft for a couple of months, and then you’ll learn a little of life, which is wery useful.”
The lively temperament of the Dandy would here probably have involved him in an inconvenient embroilment had not some one at this moment touched him on the shoulder, and looking round he recognised Mr Morley. Notwithstanding the difference of their political schools Mick had a profound respect for Morley, though why he could not perhaps precisely express. But he had heard Devilsdust for years declare that Stephen Morley was the deepest head in Mowbray, and though he regretted the unfortunate weakness in favour of that imaginary abstraction called Moral Force for which the editor of the Phalanx was distinguished, still Devilsdust used to say that if ever the great revolution were to occur by which the rights of labour were to be recognised, though bolder spirits and brawnier arms might consummate the change, there was only one head among them that would be capable when they had gained their power to guide it for the public weal, and as Devilsdust used to add, “carry out the thing,” and that was Morley.
It was a fine summer day, and Mowedale was as resplendent as when Egremont amid its beauties first began to muse over the beautiful. There was the same bloom over the sky, the same shadowy lustre on the trees, the same sparkling brilliancy on the waters. A herdsman following some kine was crossing the stone bridge, and except their lowing as they stopped and sniffed the current of fresh air in its centre, there was not a sound.
Suddenly the tramp and hum of a multitude broke upon the sunshiny silence. A vast crowd with some assumption of an ill-disciplined order approached from the direction of Mowbray. At their head rode a man on a white mule. Many of his followers were armed with bludgeons and other rude weapons, and moved in files. Behind them spread a more miscellaneous throng, in which women were not wanting and even children. They moved rapidly; they swept by the former cottage of Gerard; they were in sight of the settlement of Trafford.
“All the waters of the river shall not dout the blaze that I will light up today,” said the Liberator.
“He is a most inveterate Capitalist,” said Field, “and would divert the minds of the people from the Five Points by allotting them gardens and giving them baths.”
“We will have no more gardens in England; everything shall be open,” said the Liberator, “and baths shall only be used to drown the enemies of the People. I was always against washing; it takes the marrow out of a man.”
“Here we are,” said Field, as the roofs and bowers of the village, the spire and the spreading factory, broke upon them. “Every door and every window closed! The settlement is deserted. Some one has been before us and apprised them of our arrival.”
“Will they pour water on me?” said the Bishop. “It must be a stream indeed that shall put out the blaze that I am going to light. What shall we do first? Halt there, you men,” said the Liberator looking back with that scowl which his apprentices never could forget. “Will you halt or won’t you? or must I be among you?”
There was a tremulous shuffling and then a comparative silence.
The women and children of the village had been gathered into the factory yard, of which the great gates were closed.
“What shall we burn first?” asked the Bishop.
“We may as well parley with them a little,” said Field; “perhaps we may contrive to gain admission and then we can sack the whole affair, and let the people burn the machinery. It will be a great moral lesson.”
“As long as there is burning,” said the Bishop, “I don’t care what lessons you teach them. I leave them to you; but I will have fire to put out that water.”
“I’ll advance,” said Field, and so saying he went forward and rang at the gate; the Bishop, on his mule, with a dozen Hell-cats accompanying him; the great body of the people about twenty yards withdrawn.
“Who rings?” asked a loud voice.
“One who by the order of the Liberator wishes to enter and see whether his commands for a complete cessation of labour have been complied with in this establishment.”
“Very good,” said the Bishop.
“There is no hand at work here,” said the voice; “and you may take my word for it.”
“Your word be hanged,” said the Bishop. “I want to know —”
“Hush, hush!” said Field, and then in a louder voice he said, “It may be so, but as our messengers this morning were not permitted to enter and were treated with great indignity —”
“That’s it,” said the Bishop.
“With great indignity,” continued Field, “we must have ocular experience of the state of affairs, and I beg and recommend you therefore at once to let the Liberator enter.”
“None shall enter here,” replied the unseen guardian of the gate.
“That’s enough,” cried the Bishop.
“Beware!” said Field.
“Whether you let us in or not, ’tis all the same,” said the Bishop; “I will have fire for your water, and I have come for that. Now lads!”
“Stop,” said the voice of the unseen. “I will speak to you.”
“He is going to let us in,” whispered Field to the Bishop.
And suddenly there appeared on the flat roof of the lodge that was on one side of the gates — Gerard. His air, his figure, his position were alike commanding, and at the sight of him a loud and spontaneous cheer burst from the assembled thousands. It was the sight of one who was after all the most popular leader of the people that had ever figured in these parts, whose eloquence charmed and commanded, whose disinterestedness was acknowledged, whose sufferings had created sympathy, whose courage, manly bearing, and famous feats of strength were a source to them of pride. There was not a Mowbray man whose heart did not throb with emotion, and whose memory did not recall the orations from the Druid’s altar and the famous meetings on the moor. “Gerard for ever” was the universal shout.
The Bishop who liked no one to be cheered except himself, like many great men, was much disgusted, a little perplexed. “What does all this mean?” he whispered to Field. “I came here to burn down the place.”
“Wait awhile,” said Field, “we must humour the Mowbray men a bit. This is their favourite leader, at least was in old days. I know him well; he is a bold and honest man.”
“Is this the man who ducked my people?” asked the Bishop fiercely.
“Hush!” said Field; “he is going to speak.”
“My friends,” said Gerard, “for if we are not friends who should be? (loud cheers and cries of “Very true”), if you come hear to learn whether the Mowedale works are stopped, I give you my word there is not a machine or man that stirs here at this moment (great cheering). I believe you’ll take my word (cheers, and cries of “We will”). I believe I’m known at Mowbray (“Gerard for ever!”), and on Mowbray Moor too (tumultous cheering). We have met together before this (“That we have”), and shall meet again yet (great cheering). The people haven’t so many friends that they should quarrel with well-wishers. The master here has done his best to soften your lots. He is not one of those who deny that Labour has rights (loud cheers). I say that Mr Trafford has always acknowledged the rights of Labour (prolonged cheers and cries of “So he has”). Well, is he the man that we should injure? (“No, no”). What if he did give a cold reception to some visitors this morning —(groans)— perhaps they wore faces he was not used to (loud cheers and laughter from the Mowbray people). I dare say they mean as well as we do — no doubt of that — but still a neighbour’s a neighbour (immense cheering). Now, my lads, three cheers for the National Holiday,” and Gerard gave the time, and his voice was echoed by the thousands present. “The master here has no wish to interfere with the National Holiday; all he wants to secure is that all mills and works should alike stop (cries of “Very just”). And I say so too,” continued Gerard. “It is just; just and manly and like a true-born Englishman as he is, who loves the people and whose fathers before him loved the people (great cheering). Three cheers for Mr Trafford I say;” and they were given; “and three cheers for Mrs Trafford too, the friend of the poor!” Here the mob became not only enthusiastic but maudlin; all vowing to each other that Trafford was a true-born Englishman and his wife a very angel upon earth. This popular feeling is so contagious that even the Hell-cats shared it — cheering, shaking hands with each other, and almost shedding tears — though it must be confessed that they had some vague idea that it was all to end in something to drink.
Their great leader however remained unmoved, and nothing but his brutal stupidity could have prevented him from endeavouring to arrest the tide of public feeling, but he was quite bewildered by the diversion, and for the first time failed in finding a prompter in Field. The Chartist was cowed by Gerard; his old companion in scenes that the memory lingered over, and whose superior genius had often controlled and often led him. Gerard too had recognized him and had made some personal allusion and appeal to him, which alike touched his conscience and flattered his vanity. The ranks were broken, the spirit of the expedition had dissolved, the great body were talking of returning, some of the stragglers indeed were on their way back, the Bishop silent and confused kept knocking the mane of his mule with his hammer.
“Now,” said Morley who during this scene had stood apart accompanied by Devilsdust and Dandy Mick. “Now,” said Morley to the latter, “now is your time.”
“Gentlemen!” sang out Mick.
“A speech, a speech!” cried out several.
“Listen to Mick Radley,” whispered Devilsdust moving swiftly among the mob and addressing every one he met of influence. “Listen to Mick Radley, he has something important.”
“Radley for ever! Listen to Mick Radley! Go it Dandy! Pitch it into them! Silence for Dandy Mick! Jump up on that ere bank,” and on the bank Mick mounted accordingly.
“Gentlemen,” said Mick.
“Well you have said that before.”
“I like to hear him say ‘Gentlemen;’ it’s respectful.”
“Gentlemen,” said the Dandy, “the National Holiday has begun —”
“Three cheers for it!”
“Silence; hear the Dandy!”
“The National Holiday has begun,” continued Mick, “and it seems to me the best thing for the people to do is to take a walk in Lord de Mowbray’s park.”
This proposition was received with one of those wild shouts of approbation which indicate the orator has exactly hit his audience between wind and water. The fact is the public mind at this instant wanted to be led, and in Dandy Mick a leader appeared. A leader to be successful should embody in his system the necessities of his followers; express what every one feels, but no one has had the ability or the courage to pronounce.
The courage and adroitness, the influence of Gerard, had reconciled the people to the relinquishment of the great end for which they had congregated; but neither man nor multitude like to make preparations without obtaining a result. Every one wanted to achieve some object by the movement; and at this critical juncture an object was proposed, and one which promised novelty, amusement, excitement. The Bishop whose consent must be obtained, but who relinquished an idea with the same difficulty with which he had imbibed it, alone murmured, and kept saying to Field, “I thought we came to burn down the mill! A bloody-minded Capitalist, a man that makes gardens and forces the people to wash themselves: What is all this?”
Field said what he could, while Devilsdust leaning over the mule’s shoulder, cajoled the other ear of the Bishop, who at last gave his consent with almost as much reluctance as George the Fourth did to the emancipation of the Roman Catholics; but he made his terms, and said in a sulky voice he must have a glass of ale.
“Drink a glass of ale with Lord de Mowbray,” said Devilsdust.
When the news had arrived in the morning at Mowbray, that the messengers of the Bishop had met with a somewhat queer reception at the Mowedale works, Gerard prescient that some trouble might in consequence occur there, determined to repair at once to the residence of his late employer. It so happened that Monday was the day on which the cottages up the dale and on the other side of the river were visited by an envoy of Ursula Trafford, and it was the office of Sybil this morning to fulfil the duties of that mission of charity. She had mentioned this to her father on the previous day, and as in consequence of the strike, he was no longer occupied, he had proposed to accompany his daughter on the morrow. Together therefore they had walked until they arrived at the bridge, it being then about two hours to noon, a little above their former residence. Here they were to separate. Gerard embraced his daughter with even more than usual tenderness; and as Sybil crossed the bridge, she looked round at her father, and her glance caught his, turned for the same fond purpose.
Sybil was not alone; Harold, who had ceased to gambol, but who had gained in stature, majesty and weight what he had lost of lithe and frolick grace, was by her side. He no longer danced before his mistress, coursed away and then returned, or vented his exuberant life in a thousand feats of playful vigour; but sedate and observant, he was always at hand, ever sagacious, and seemed to watch her every glance.
The day was beautiful, the scene was fair, the spot indeed was one which rendered the performance of gracious offices to Sybil doubly sweet. She ever begged of the Lady Superior that she might be her minister to the cottages up Dale. They were full of familiar faces. It was a region endeared to Sybil by many memories of content and tenderness. And as she moved along today her heart was light, and the natural joyousness of her disposition, which so many adverse circumstances had tended to repress, was visible in her sunny face. She was happy about her father. The invasion of the miners, instead of prompting him as she had feared to some rash conduct, appeared to have filled him only with disgust. Even now he was occupied in a pursuit of order and peace, counselling prudence and protecting the benevolent.
She passed through a copse which skirted those woods of Mowbray wherein she had once so often rambled with one whose image now hovered over her spirit. Ah! what scenes and changes, dazzling and dark, had occurred since the careless though thoughtful days of her early girlhood! Sybil mused: she recalled the moonlit hour when Mr Franklin first paid a visit to their cottage, their walks and wanderings, the expeditions which she planned and the explanations which she so artlessly gave him. Her memory wandered to their meeting in Westminster, and all the scenes of sorrow and of softness of which it was the herald. Her imagination raised before her in colours of light and life the morning, the terrible morning when he came to her desperate rescue; his voice sounded in her ear; her cheek glowed as she recalled their tender farewell.
It was past noon: Sybil had reached the term of her expedition, had visited her last charge; she was emerging from the hills into the open country, and about to regain the river road that would in time have conducted her to the bridge. On one side of her was the moor, on the other a wood that was the boundary of Mowbray Park. And now a number of women met her, some of whom she recognised, and had indeed visited earlier in the morning. Their movements were disordered, distress and panic were expressed on their countenances. Sybil stopped, she spoke to some, the rest gathered around her. The Hell-cats were coming, they said; they were on the other side of the river, burning mills, destroying all they could put their hands on, man, woman and child.
Sybil, alarmed for her father, put to them some questions, to which they gave incoherent answers. It was however clear that they had seen no one, and knew nothing of their own experience. The rumour had reached them that the mob was advancing up Dale, those who had apprised them had, according to their statement, absolutely witnessed the approach of the multitude, and so they had locked up their cottages, crossed the bridge, and ran away to the woods and moor. Under these circumstances, deeming that there might be much exaggeration, Sybil at length resolved to advance, and in a few minutes those whom she had encountered were out of sight. She patted Harold, who looked up in her face and gave a bark, significant of his approbation of her proceeding, and also of his consciousness that something strange was going on. She had not proceeded very far before two men on horseback, at full gallop, met her. They pulled up directly they observed her, and said, “You had better go back as fast as you can: the mob is out, and coming up Dale in great force.”
Sybil enquired, with much agitation, whether they had themselves seen the people, and they replied that they had not, but that advices had been received from Mowbray of their approach, and as for themselves they were hurrying at their utmost speed to a town ten miles off, where they understood some yeomanry were stationed, and to whom the Mayor of Mowbray had last night sent a despatch: Sybil would have enquired whether there were time for her to reach the bridge and join her father at the factory of Trafford, but the horsemen were impatient and rode off. Still she determined to proceed. All that she now aimed at was to reach Gerard and share his fate.
A boat put across the river; two men and a crowd of women. The mob had been seen; at least there was positively one person present who had distinguished them in the extreme distance, or rather the cloud of dust which they created; there were dreadful stories of their violence and devastation. It was understood that a body meant to attack Trafford’s works, but, as the narrator added, it was very probable that the greater part would cross the bridge and so on to the Moor, where they would hold a meeting.
Sybil would fain have crossed in the boat, but there was no one to assist her. They had escaped, and meant to lose no time in finding a place of refuge for the moment. They were sure if they recrossed now, they must meet the mob. They were about to leave her, Sybil in infinite distress, when a lady driving herself in a pony carriage, with a couple of grooms behind her mounted also on ponies of the same form and colour, came up from the direction of the Moor, and observing the group and Sybil much agitated, pulled up and enquired the cause. One of the men, frequently interrupted by all the women, immediately entered into a narrative of the state of affairs for which the lady was evidently quite unprepared, for her alarm was considerable.
“And this young person will persist in crossing over,” continued the man. “It’s nothing less than madness. I tell her she will meet instant death or worse.”
“It seems to me very rash,” said the lady in a kind tone, and who seemed to recognise her.
“Alas! what am I to do!” exclaimed Sybil. “I left my father at Mr Trafford’s!”
“Well, we have no time to lose,” said the man, whose companion had now fastened the boat to the bank, and so wishing them good morning, and followed by the whole of his cargo, they went on their way.
But just at this moment a gentleman, mounted on a very knowing little cob, came cantering up, exclaiming, as he reached the pony carriage, “My dear Joan, I am looking after you. I have been in the greatest alarm for you. There are riots on the other side of the river, and I was afraid you might have crossed the bridge.”
Upon this, Lady Joan related to Mr Mountchesney how she had just become acquainted with the intelligence, and then they conversed together for a moment or so in a whisper: when turning round to Sybil, she said, “I think you had really better come home with us till affairs are a little more quiet.”
“You are most kind,” said Sybil, “but if I could get back to the town through Mowbray Park, I think I might do something for my father!”
“We are going to the Castle through the park at this moment,” said the gentleman. “You had better come with us. There you will at least be safe, and perhaps we shall be able to do something for the good people in trouble over the water,” and so saying, nodding to a groom who, advancing, held his cob, the gentleman dismounted, and approaching Sybil with great courtesy, said, “I think we ought all of us to know each other. Lady Joan and myself had once the pleasure of meeting you, I think, at Mr Trafford’s. It is a long time ago, but,” he added in a subdued tone, “you are not a person to forget.”
Sybil was insensible to Mr Mountchesney’s gallantry, but alarmed and perplexed, she yielded to the representations of himself and Lady Joan, and got into the phaeton. Turning from the river, they pursued a road which entered after a short progress into the park, Mr Mountchesney cantering on before them, Harold following. They took their way for about a mile through a richly-wooded demesne, Lady Joan addressing many observations with great kindness to Sybil, and frequently endeavouring, though in vain, to distract her agitated thoughts, till they at length emerged from the more covered parts into extensive lawns, while on a rising ground which they rapidly approached rose Mowbray Castle, a modern castellated building, raised in a style not remarkable for its taste or correctness, but vast, grand, and imposing.
“And now,” said Mr Mountchesney, riding up to them and addressing Sybil, “I will send off a scout immediately for news of your father. In the mean time let us believe the best!” Sybil thanked him with cordiality, and then she entered — Mowbray Castle.
Less than an hour after the arrival of Sybil at Mowbray Castle the scout that Mr Mountchesney had sent off to gather news returned, and with intelligence of the triumph of Gerard’s eloquence, that all had ended happily, and that the people were dispersing and returning to the town.
Kind as was the reception accorded to Sybil by Lady de Mowbray and her daughter on her arrival, the remembrance of the perilous position of her father had totally disqualified her from responding to their advances. Acquainted with the cause of her anxiety and depression and sympathising with womanly softness with her distress, nothing could be more considerate than their behaviour. It touched Sybil much, and she regretted the harsh thoughts that irresistible circumstances had forced her to cherish respecting persons, who, now that she saw them in their domestic and unaffected hour, had apparently many qualities to conciliate and to charm. When the good news arrived of her father’s safety, and safety achieved in a manner so flattering to a daughter’s pride, it came upon a heart predisposed to warmth and kindness and all her feelings opened. The tears stood in her beautiful eyes, and they were tears not only of tenderness but gratitude. Fortunately Lord de Mowbray was at the moment absent, and as the question of the controverted inheritance was a secret to every member of the family except himself, the name of Gerard excited no invidious sensation in the circle. Sybil was willing to please and to be pleased: every one was captivated by her beauty, her grace, her picturesque expression and sweet simplicity. Lady de Mowbray serenely smiled and frequently when unobserved viewed her through her eyeglass. Lady Joan, much softened by marriage, would show her the castle; Lady Maud was in ecstasies with all that Sybil said or did: while Mr Mountchesney who had thought of little else but Sybil ever since Lady Maud’s report of her seraphic singing, and who had not let four-and-twenty hours go by without discovering, with all the practised art of St James’, the name and residence of the unknown fair, flattered himself he was making great play when Sybil, moved by his great kindness, distinguished him by frequent notice. They had viewed the castle, they were in the music-room, Sybil had been prevailed upon, though with reluctance, to sing. Some Spanish church music which she found there called forth all her powers: all was happiness, delight, rapture, Lady Maud in a frenzy of friendship, Mr Mountchesney convinced that the country in August might be delightful, and Lady Joan almost gay because Alfred was pleased. Lady de Mowbray had been left in her boudoir with the “Morning Post.” Sybil had just finished a ravishing air, there was a murmur of luncheon — when suddenly Harold, who had persisted in following his mistress and whom Mr Mountchesney had gallantly introduced into the music-room, rose and coming forward from the corner in which he reposed, barked violently.
“How now!” said Mr Mountchesney.
“Harold!” said Sybil in a tone of remonstrance and surprise.
But the dog not only continued to bark but even howled. At this moment the groom of the chambers entered the room abruptly and with a face of mystery said that he wished to speak with Mr Mountchesney. That gentleman immediately withdrew. He was absent some little time, the dog very agitated; Lady Joan becoming disquieted, when he returned. His changed air struck the vigilant eye of his wife.
“What has happened Alfred?” she said.
“Oh! don’t be alarmed,” he replied with an obvious affectation of ease. “There are some troublesome people in the park; stragglers I suppose from the rioters. The gate-keeper ought not to have let them pass. I have given directions to Bentley what to do, if they come to the castle.”
“Let us go to mama,” said Lady Joan.
And they were all about leaving the music-room, when a servant came running in and called out “Mr Bentley told me to say, sir, they are in sight.”
“Very well,” said Mr Mountchesney in a calm tone but changing colour. “You had better go to your mama, Joan, and take Maud and our friend with you. I will stay below for a while,” and notwithstanding the remonstrances of his wife, Mr Mountchesney went to the hall.
“I don’t know what to do, sir,” said the house steward. “They are a very strong party.”
“Close all the windows, lock and bar all the doors,” said Mr Mountchesney. “I am frightened,” he continued, “about your lord. I fear he may fall in with these people.”
“My lord is at Mowbray,” said Mr Bentley. “He must have heard of this mob there.”
And now emerging from the plantations and entering on the lawns, the force and description of the invading party were easier to distinguish. They were numerous, though consisting of only a section of the original expedition, for Gerard had collected a great portion of the Mowbray men, and they preferred being under his command to following a stranger whom they did not much like on a somewhat licentious adventure of which their natural leader disapproved. The invading section therefore were principally composed of Hell-cats, though singular enough Morley of all men in the world accompanied them, attended by Devilsdust, Dandy Mick, and others of that youthful class of which these last were the idols and heroes. There were perhaps eighteen hundred or two thousand persons armed with bars and bludgeons, in general a grimy crew, whose dress and appearance revealed the kind of labour to which they were accustomed. The difference between them and the minority of Mowbray operatives was instantly recognizable.
When they perceived the castle this dreadful band gave a ferocious shout. Lady de Mowbray showed blood; she was composed and courageous. She observed the mob from the window, and reassuring her daughters and Sybil she said she would go down and speak to them. She was on the point of leaving the room with this object when Mr Mountchesney entered and hearing her purpose, dissuaded her from attempting it. “Leave all to me,” he said; “and make yourselves quite easy; they will go away, I am certain they will go away,” and he again quitted them.
In the meantime Lady de Mowbray and her friends observed the proceedings below. When the main body had advanced within a few hundred yards of the castle, they halted and seated themselves on the turf. This step reassured the garrison: it was generally held to indicate that the intentions of the invaders were not of a very settled or hostile character; that they had visited the place probably in a spirit of frolic, and if met with tact and civility might ultimately be induced to retire from it without much annoyance. This was evidently the opinion of Mr Mountchesney from the first, and when an uncouth being on a white mule, attended by twenty or thirty miners, advanced to the castle and asked for Lord de Mowbray, Mr Mountchesney met them with kindness, saying that he regretted his father-in-law was absent, expressed his readiness to represent him, and enquired their pleasure. His courteous bearing evidently had an influence on the Bishop, who dropping his usual brutal tone mumbled something about his wish to drink Lord de Mowbray’s health.
“You shall all drink his health,” said Mr Mountchesney humouring him, and he gave directions that a couple of barrels of ale should be broached in the park before the castle. The Bishop was pleased, the people were in good humour, some men began dancing, it seemed that the cloud had blown over, and Mr Mountchesney sent up a bulletin to Lady de Mowbray that all danger was past and that he hoped in ten minutes they would all have disappeared.
The ten minutes had expired: the Bishop was still drinking ale, and Mr Mountchesney still making civil speeches and keeping his immediate attendants in humour.
“I wish they would go,” said Lady de Mowbray.
“How wonderfully Alfred has managed them,” said Lady Joan. “After all,” said Lady Maud, “it must be confessed that the people —” Her sentence was interrupted; Harold who had been shut out but who had laid down without quietly, though moaning at intervals, now sprang at the door with so much force that it trembled on its hinges, while the dog again barked with renewed violence. Sybil went to him: he seized her dress with his teeth and would have pulled her away. Suddenly uncouth and mysterious sounds were heard, there was a loud shriek, the gong in the hail thundered, the great alarum-bell of the tower sounded without, and the housekeeper followed by the female domestics rushed into the room.
“O! my lady, my lady,” they all exclaimed at the same time, “the Hell-cats are breaking into the castle.”
Before any one of the terrified company could reply, the voice of Mr Mountchesney was heard. He was approaching them; he was no longer calm. He hurried into the room; he was pale, evidently greatly alarmed. “I have come to you,” he said; “these fellows have got in below. While there is time and we can manage them, you must leave the place.”
“I am ready for anything.” said Lady de Mowbray.
Lady Joan and Lady Maud wrung their hands in frantic terror. Sybil very pale said “Let me go down; I may know some of these men.”
“No, no,” said Mr Mountchesney. “They are not Mowbray people. It would not be safe.”
Dreadful sounds were now heard; a blending of shouts and oaths and hideous merriment. Their hearts trembled.
“The mob are in the house, sir,” called out Mr Bentley rushing up to them. “They say they will see everything.”
“Let them see everything,” said Lady de Mowbray, “but make a condition that they first let us go. Try Alfred, try to manage them before they are utterly ungovernable.”
Mr Mountchesney again left them on this desperate mission. Lady de Mowbray and all the women remained in the chamber. Not a word was spoken: the silence was complete. Even the maid-servants had ceased to sigh and sob. A feeling something like desperation was stealing over them.
The dreadful sounds continued increased. They seemed to approach nearer. It was impossible to distinguish a word, and yet their import was frightful and ferocious.
“Lord have mercy on us all!” exclaimed the housekeeper unable to restrain herself. The maids began to cry.
After an absence of about five minutes Mr Mountchesney again hurried in and leading away Lady de Mowbray, he said, “You haven’t a moment to lose. Follow us!”
There was a general rush, and following Mr Mountchesney they passed rapidly through several apartments, the fearful noises every moment increasing, until they reached the library which opened on the terrace. The windows were broken, the terrace crowded with people, several of the mob were in the room, even Lady de Mowbray cried out and fell back.
“Come on,” said Mr Mountchesney. “The mob have possession of the castle. It is our only chance.”
“But the mob are here,” said Lady de Mowbray much terrified.
“I see some Mowbray faces,” cried Sybil springing forward, with a flashing eye and glowing cheek. “Bamford and Samuel Carr: Bamford, if you be my father’s friend, aid us now; and Samuel Carr, I was with your mother this morning: did she think I should meet her son thus? No, you shall not enter,” said Sybil advancing. They recognised her, they paused. “I know you, Couchman; you told us once at the Convent that we might summon you in our need. I summon you now. O, men, men!” she exclaimed, clasping her hands. “What is this? Are you led away by strangers to such deeds? Why, I know you all! You came here to aid, I am sure, and not to harm. Guard these ladies; save them from these foreigners! There’s Butler, he’ll go with us, and Godfrey Wells. Shall it be said you let your neighbours be plundered and assailed by strangers and never tried to shield them? Now, my good friends, I entreat, I adjure you, Butler, Wells, Couchman, what would Walter Gerard say, your friend that you have so often followed, if he saw this?”
“Gerard forever!” shouted Couchman.
“Gerard forever!” exclaimed a hundred voices.
“’Tis his blessed daughter,” said others; “’tis Sybil, our angel Sybil.”
“Stand by Sybil Gerard.”
Sybil had made her way upon the terrace, and had collected around her a knot of stout followers, who, whatever may have been their original motive, were now resolved to do her bidding. The object of Mr Mountchesney was to descend the side-step of the terrace and again the flower-garden, from whence there were means of escape. But the throng was still too fierce to permit Lady de Mowbray and her companions to attempt the passage, and all that Sybil and her followers could at present do, was to keep the mob off from entering the library, and to exert themselves to obtain fresh recruits.
At this moment an unexpected aid arrived.
“Keep back there! I call upon you in the name of God to keep back!” exclaimed a voice of one struggling and communing with the rioters, a voice which all immediately recognised. It was that of Mr St Lys. Charles Gardner, “I have been your friend. The aid I gave you was often supplied to me by this house. Why are you here?”
“For no evil purpose, Mr St Lys. I came as others did, to see what was going on.”
“Then you see a deed of darkness. Struggle against it. Aid me and Philip Warner in this work; it will support you at the judgment. Tressel, Tressel, stand by me and Warner. That’s good, that’s right! And you too, Daventry, and you, and you. I knew you would wash your hands of this fell deed. It is not Mowbray men who would do this. That’s right, that’s right! Form a band. Good again. There’s not a man that joins us now who does not make a friend for life.”
Mr St Lys had been in the neighbourhood when the news of the visit of the mob to the castle reached him. He anticipated the perilous consequences. He hastened immediately to the scene of action. He had met Warner the handloom weaver in his way, and enlisted his powerful influence with the people on his side.
The respective bands of Sybil and Mr St Lys in time contrived to join. Their numbers were no longer contemptible; they were animated by the words and presence of their leaders: St Lys struggling in their midst; Sybil maintaining her position on the terrace, and inciting all around her to courage and energy.
The multitude were kept back, the passage to the side-steps of the terrace was clear.
“Now,” said Sybil, and she encouraged Lady de Mowbray, her daughters, and followers to advance. It was a fearful struggle to maintain the communication, but it was a successful one. They proceeded breathless and trembling, until they reached what was commonly called the Grotto, but which was in fact a subterranean way excavated through a hill and leading to the bank of a river where there were boats. The entrance of this tunnel was guarded by an iron gate, and Mr Mountchesney had secured the key. The gate was opened, Warner and his friends made almost superhuman efforts at this moment to keep back the multitude, Lady de Mowbray and her daughters had passed through, when there came one of those violent undulations usual in mobs, and which was occasioned by a sudden influx of persons attracted by what was occurring, and Sybil and those who immediately surrounded her and were guarding the retreat were carried far away. The gate was closed, the rest of the party had passed, but Sybil was left, and found herself entirely among strangers.
In the meantime the castle was in possession of the mob. The first great rush was to the cellars: the Bishop himself headed this onset, nor did he rest until he was seated among the prime binns of the noble proprietor. This was not a crisis of corkscrews; the heads of the bottles were knocked off with the same promptitude and dexterity as if they were shelling nuts or decapitating shrimps: the choicest wines of Christendom were poured down the thirsty throats that ale and spirits had hitherto only stimulated; Tummas was swallowing Burgundy; Master Nixon had got hold of a batch of tokay; while the Bishop himself seated on the ground and leaning against an arch, the long perspective of the cellars full of rapacious figures brandishing bottles and torches, alternately quaffed some very old Port and some Madeira of many voyages, and was making up his mind as to their respective and relative merits.
While the cellars and offices were thus occupied, bands were parading the gorgeous saloons and gazing with wonderment on their decorations and furniture. Some grimy ruffians had thrown themselves with disdainful delight on the satin couches and the state beds: others rifled the cabinets with an idea that they must be full of money, and finding little in their way, had strewn their contents — papers and books and works of art over the floors of the apartments; sometimes a band who had escaped from below with booty came up to consummate their orgies in the magnificence of the dwelling rooms. Among these were Nixon and his friends, who stared at the pictures and stood before the tall mirrors with still greater astonishment. Indeed many of them had never seen an ordinary looking-glass in their lives.
“’Tis Natur!” said Master Nixon surveying himself, and turning to Juggins.
Many of these last grew frantic, and finished their debauch by the destruction of everything around them.
But while these scenes of brutal riot were occurring there was one select but resolute band who shared in none of these excesses. Morley, followed by half a dozen Mowbray lads and two chosen Hell-cats, leaving all the confusion below, had ascended the great staircase, traced his way down a corridor to the winding steps of the Round Tower, and supplied with the necessary instruments had forced his entrance into the muniment room of the castle. It was a circular chamber lined with tall fire-proof cases. These might have presented invincible obstacles to any other than the pupils of Bishop Hatton; as it was, in some instances the locks in others the hinges yielded in time, though after prolonged efforts, to the resources of their art; and while Dandy Mick and his friends kept watch at the entrance, Morley and Devilsdust proceeded to examine the contents of the cases: piles of parchment deeds, bundles of papers arranged and docketed, many boxes of various size and materials: but the desired object was not visible. A baffled expression came over the face of Morley; he paused for an instant in his labours. The thought of how much he had sacrificed for this, and only to fail, came upon him — upon him, the votary of Moral Power in the midst of havoc which he had organised and stimulated. He cursed Baptist Hatton in his heart.
“The knaves have destroyed them,” said Devilsdust. “I thought how it would be. They never would run the chance of a son of Labour being lord of all this.”
Some of the cases were very deep, and they had hitherto in general, in order to save time, proved their contents with an iron rod. Now Morley with a desperate air mounting on some steps that were in the room, commenced formally rifling the cases and throwing their contents on the floor; it was soon strewn with deeds and papers and boxes which he and Devilsdust the moment they had glanced at them hurled away. At length when all hope seemed to have vanished, clearing a case which at first appeared only to contain papers, Morley struck something at its back; he sprang forward with outstretched arm, his body was half hid in the cabinet, and he pulled out with triumphant exultation the box, painted blue and blazoned with the arms of Valence. It was neither large nor heavy; he held it out to Devilsdust without saying a word, and Morley descending the steps sate down for a moment on a pile of deeds and folded his arms.
At this juncture the discharge of musketry was heard.
“Hilloa!” said Devilsdust with a queer expression. Morley started from his seat. Dandy Mick rushed into the room. “Troops, troops! there are troops here!” he exclaimed.
“Let us descend,” said Morley. “In the confusion we may escape. I will take the box,” and they left the muniment room.
One of their party whom Mick had sent forward to reconnoitre fell back upon them. “They are not troops,” he said; “they are yeomanry; they are firing away and cutting every one down. They have cleared the ground floor of the castle and are in complete possession below. We cannot escape this way.”
“Those accursed locks!” said Morley clenching the box. “Time has beat us. Let us see, let us see.” He ran back into the mumment room and examined the egress from the window. It was just possible for any one very lithe and nimble to vault upon the roof of the less elevated part of the castle. Revolving this, another scout rushed in and said, “Comrades, they are here! they are ascending the stairs.”
Morley stamped on the ground with rage and despair. Then seizing Mick by the hand he said, “You see this window; can you by any means reach that roof?”
“One may as well lose one’s neck that way,” said Mick. “I’ll try.”
“Off! If you land I will throw this box after you. Now mind; take it to the convent at Mowbray and deliver it yourself from me to Sybil Gerard. It is light; there are only papers in it; but they will give her her own again, and she will not forget you.”
“Never mind that,” said Mick. “I only wish I may live to see her.”
The tramp of the ascending troopers was heard.
“Good bye my hearties,” said Mick, and he made the spring. He seemed stunned, but he might recover. Morley watched him and flung the box.
“And now,” he said drawing a pistol, “we may fight our way yet. I’ll shoot the first man who enters, and then you must rush on them with your bludgeons.”
The force that had so unexpectedly arrived at this scene of devastation was a troop of the yeomanry regiment of Lord Marney. The strike in Lancashire and the revolt in the mining districts had so completely drained this county of military, that the lord lieutenant had insisted on Lord Marney quitting his agricultural neighbourhood and quartering himself in the region of factories. Within the last two days he had fixed his headquarters at a large manufacturing town within ten miles of Mowbray, and a despatch on Sunday evening from the mayor of that town having reached him, apprising him of the invasion of the miners, Egremont had received orders to march with his troop there on the following morning.
Egremont had not departed more than two hours when the horsemen whom Sybil had met arrived at Lord Marney’s headquarters, bringing a most alarming and exaggerated report of the insurrection and of the havoc that was probably impending. Lord Marney being of opinion that Egremont’s forces were by no means equal to the occasion resolved therefore at once to set out for Mowbray with his own troop. Crossing Mowbray Moor he encountered a great multitude, now headed for purposes of peace by Walter Gerard. His mind inflamed by the accounts he had received, and hating at all times any popular demonstration, his lordship resolved without inquiry or preparation immediately to disperse them. The Riot Act was read with the rapidity with which grace is sometimes said at the head of a public table — a ceremony of which none but the performer and his immediate friends are conscious. The people were fired on and sabred. The indignant spirit of Gerard resisted; he struck down a trooper to the earth, and incited those about him not to yield. The father of Sybil was picked out — the real friend and champion of the People — and shot dead. Instantly arose a groan which almost quelled the spirit of Lord Marney, though armed and at the head of armed men. The people who before this were in general scared and dispersing, ready indeed to fly in all directions, no sooner saw their beloved leader fall than a feeling of frenzy came over them. They defied the troopers, though themselves armed only with stones and bludgeons; they rushed at the horsemen and tore them from their saddles, while a shower of stones rattled on the helmet of Lord Marney and seemed never to cease. In vain the men around him charged the infuriated throng; the people returned to their prey, nor did they rest until Lord Marney fell lifeless on Mowbray Moor, literally stoned to death.
These disastrous events of course occurred at a subsequent period of the day to that on which half-a-dozen troopers were ascending the staircase of the Round Tower of Mowbray Castle. The distracted house-steward of Lord de Mowbray had met and impressed upon them, now that the Castle was once more in their possession, of securing the muniment room, for Mr Bentley had witnessed the ominous ascent of Morley and his companions to that important chamber.
Morley and his companions had taken up an advantageous position at the head of the staircase.
“Surrender,” said the commander of the yeomanry. “Resistance is useless.”
Morley presented his pistol, but before he could pull the trigger a shot from a trooper in the rear, and who from his position could well observe the intention of Morley, struck Stephen in the breast; still he fired, but aimless and without effect. The troopers pushed on; Morley fainting fell back with his friends who were frightened, except Devilsdust, who had struck hard and well, and who in turn had been slightly sabred. The yeomanry entered the muniment room almost at the same time as their foes, leaving Devilsdust behind them, who had fallen, and who cursing the Capitalist who had wounded him managed to escape. Morley fell when he had regained the room. The rest surrendered.
“Morley! Stephen Morley!” exclaimed the commander of the yeomanry. “You, you here!”
“Yes. I am sped,” he said in a faint voice. “No, no succour. It is useless and I desire none. Why I am here is a mystery; let it remain so. The world will misjudge me; the man of peace they will say was a hypocrite. The world will be wrong, as it always is. Death is bitter,” he said with a deep sigh, and speaking with great difficulty, “more bitter from you; but just. We have struggled together before, Egremont. I thought I had scotched you then, but you escaped. Our lives have been a struggle since we first met. Your star has controlled mine; and now I feel I have sacrificed life and fame — dying men prophecy — for your profit and honour. O Sybil!” and with this name half sighed upon his lips the votary of Moral Power and the Apostle of Community ceased to exist.
Meanwhile Sybil, separated from her friends who had made their escape through the grotto, was left with only Harold for her protector, for she had lost even Warner in the crush. She looked around in vain for some Mowbray face that she could recognise, but after some fruitless research, a loud shouting in the distance, followed by the firing of musketry, so terrified all around her, that the mob in her immediate neighbourhood dispersed as if by magic, and she remained alone crouching in a corner of the flower-garden, while dreadful shouts and shrieks and yells resounded from the distance, occasionally firing, the smoke floating to her retreat. She could see from where she stood the multitude flying about the park in all directions, and therefore she thought it best to remain in her present position and await the terrible events. She concluded that some military force had arrived, and that if she could maintain her present post, she hoped that the extreme danger might pass. But while she indulged in these hopes, a dark cloud of smoke came descending in the garden. It could not be produced by musket or carbine: its volume was too heavy even for ordnance: and in a moment there were sparks mingled with its black form; and then the shouting and shrieking which had in some degree subsided, suddenly broke out again with increased force and wildness. The Castle was on fire.
Whether from heedlessness or from insane intention, for the deed sealed their own doom, the drunken Hell-cats brandishing their torches, while they rifled the cellars and examined every closet and corner of the offices, had set fire to the lower part of the building, and the flames that had for some time burnt unseen, had now gained the principal chambers. The Bishop was lying senseless in the main cellar, surrounded by his chief officers in the same state: indeed the whole of the basement was covered with the recumbent figures of Hell-cats, as black and thick as torpid flies during the last days of their career. The funeral pile of the children of Woden was a sumptuous one; it was prepared and lighted by themselves; and the flame that, rising from the keep of Mowbray, announced to the startled country that in a short hour the splendid mimickry of Norman rule would cease to exist, told also the pitiless fate of the ruthless savage, who, with analogous pretension, had presumed to style himself the Liberator of the People.
The clouds of smoke, the tongues of flame, that now began to mingle with them, the multitude whom this new incident and impending catastrophe summoned hack to the scene, forced Sybil to leave the garden and enter the park. It was in vain she endeavoured to gain some part less frequented than the rest, and to make her way unobserved. Suddenly a band of drunken ruffians, with shouts and oaths, surrounded her; she shrieked in frantic terror; Harold sprung at the throat of the foremost; another advanced, Harold left his present prey and attacked the new assailant. The brave dog did wonders, but the odds were fearful; and the men had bludgeons, were enraged, and had already wounded him. One ruffian had grasped the arm of Sybil, another had clenched her garments, when an officer covered with dust and gore, sabre in hand, jumped from the terrace, and hurried to the rescue. He cut down one man, thrust away another, and placing his left arm round Sybil, he defended her with his sword, while Harold now become furious, flew from man to man, and protected her on the other side. Her assailants were routed, they made a staggering flight; the officer turned round and pressed Sybil to his heart.
“We will never part again,” said Egremont.
“Never,” murmured Sybil.
It was the Spring of last year, and Lady Bardolf was making a morning visit to Lady St Julians.
“I heard they were to be at Lady Palmerston’s last night,” said Lady St Julians.
“No,” said Lady Bardolf shaking his head, “they make their first appearance at Deloraine House. We meet there on Thursday I know.”
“Well, I must say,” said Lady St Julians, “that I am curious to see her.”
“Lord Valentine met them last year at Naples.”
“And what does he say of her.”
“Oh! he raves!”
“What a romantic history! And what a fortunate man is Lord Marney. If one could only have foreseen events!” exclaimed Lady St Julians. “He was always a favourite of mine though. But still I thought his brother was the very last person who ever would die. He was so very hard!”
“I fear Lord Marney is entirely lost to us,” said Lady Bardolf looking very solemn.
“Ah! he always had a twist,” said Lady St Julians, “and used to breakfast with that horrid Mr Trenchard, and do those sort of things. But still with his immense fortune, I should think he would become rational.”
“You may well say immense,” said Lady Bardolf. “Mr Ormsby, and there is no better judge of another man’s income, says there are not three peers in the kingdom who have so much a year clear.”
“They say the Mowbray estate is forty thousand a year,” said Lady St Julians. “Poor Lady de Mowbray! I understand that Mr Mountchesney has resolved not to appeal against the verdict.”
“You know he has not a shadow of a chance,” said Lady Bardolf. “Ah! what changes we have seen in that family! They say the writ of right killed poor Lord de Mowbray, but to my mind he never recovered the burning of the Castle. We went over to them directly, and I never saw a man so cut up. We wanted them to come to us at Firebrace, but he said he should leave the county immediately. I remember Lord Bardolf mentioning to me, that he looked like a dying man.”
“Well I must say,” said Lady St Julians rallying as it were from a fit of abstraction, “that I am most curious to see Lady Marney.”
The reader will infer from this conversation that Dandy Mick, in spite of his stunning fall, and all dangers which awaited him on his recovery, had contrived in spite of fire and flame, sabre and carbine, trampling troopers and plundering mobs, to reach the Convent of Mowbray with the box of papers. There he enquired for Sybil, in whose hands, and whose hands alone he was enjoined to deposit them. She was still absent, but faithful to his instructions, Mick would deliver his charge to none other, and exhausted by the fatigues of the terrible day, he remained in the court-yard of the Convent, lying down with the box for his pillow until Sybil under the protection of Egremont herself returned. Then he fulfilled his mission. Sybil was too agitated at the moment to perceive all its import, but she delivered the box into the custody of Egremont, who desiring Mick to follow him to his hotel bade farewell to Sybil, who equally with himself, was then ignorant of the fatal encounter on Mowbray Moor.
We must drop a veil over the anguish which its inevitable and speedy revelation brought to the daughter of Gerard. Her love for her father was one of those profound emotions which seemed to form a constituent part of her existence. She remained for a long period in helpless woe, soothed only by the sacred cares of Ursula. There was another mourner in this season of sorrow who must not be forgotten; and that was Lady Marney. All that tenderness and the most considerate thought could devise to soften sorrow and reconcile her to a change of life which at the first has in it something depressing were extended by Egremont to Arabella. He supplied in an instant every arrangement which had been neglected by his brother, but which could secure her convenience and tend to her happiness. Between Marney Abbey where he insisted for the present that Arabella should reside and Mowbray, Egremont passed his life for many months, until by some management which we need not trace or analyse, Lady Marney came over one day to the Convent at Mowbray and carried back Sybil to Marney Abbey, never again to quit it until on her bridal day, when the Earl and Countess of Marney departed for Italy where they passed nearly a year, and from which they had just returned at the commencement of this chapter.
During the previous period however many important events had occurred. Lord Marney had placed himself in communication with Mr Hatton, who had soon become acquainted with all that had occurred in the muniment room of Mowbray Castle. The result was not what he had once anticipated; but for him it was not without some compensatory circumstances. True another, and an unexpected rival, had stepped on the stage with whom it was vain to cope, but the idea that he had deprived Sybil of her inheritance, had ever, since he had became acquainted with her, been the plague-spot of Hatton’s life, and there was nothing that he desired more ardently than to see her restored to her rights, and to be instrumental in that restoration. How successful he was in pursuing her claim, the reader has already learnt.
Dandy Mick was rewarded for all the dangers he had encountered in the service of Sybil, and what he conceived was the vindication of popular rights. Lord Marney established him in business, and Mick took Devilsdust for a partner. Devilsdust having thus obtained a position in society and become a capitalist, thought it but a due homage to the social decencies to assume a decorous appellation, and he called himself by the name of the town where he was born. The firm of Radley, Mowbray, and Co., is a rising one; and will probably furnish in time a crop of members of Parliament and Peers of the realm. Devilsdust married Caroline, and Mrs Mowbray became a great favorite. She was always perhaps a little too fond of junketting but she had a sweet temper and a gay spirit, and sustained her husband in the agonies of a great speculation, or the despair of glutted markets. Julia became Mrs Radley, and was much esteemed: no one could behave better. She was more orderly than Caroline, and exactly suited Mick, who wanted a person near him of decision and method. As for Harriet, she is not yet married. Though pretty and clever, she is selfish and a screw. She has saved a good deal and has a considerable sum in the Savings’ Bank, but like many heiresses she cannot bring her mind to share her money with another. The great measures of Sir Robert Peel, which produced three good harvests, have entirely revived trade at Mowbray. The Temple is again open. newly-painted, and reburnished, and Chaffing Jack has of course “rallied” while good Mrs Carey still gossips with her neighbours round her well-stored stall, and tells wonderful stories of the great stick-out and riots of ‘42.
And thus I conclude the last page of a work, which though its form be light and unpretending, would yet aspire to suggest to its readers some considerations of a very opposite character. A year ago. I presumed to offer to the public some volumes that aimed to call their attention to the state of our political parties; their origin, their history, their present position. In an age of political infidelity, of mean passions and petty thoughts, I would have impressed upon the rising race not to despair, but to seek in a right understanding of the history of their country and in the energies of heroic youth — the elements of national welfare. The present work advances another step in the same emprise. From the state of Parties it now would draw public thought to the state of the People whom those parties for two centuries have governed. The comprehension and the cure of this greater theme depend upon the same agencies as the first: it is the past alone that can explain the present, and it is youth that alone can mould the remedial future. The written history of our country for the last ten reigns has been a mere phantasma; giving to the origin and consequence of public transactions a character and colour in every respect dissimilar with their natural form and hue. In this mighty mystery all thoughts and things have assumed an aspect and title contrary to their real quality and style: Oligarchy has been called Liberty; an exclusive Priesthood has been christened a National Church; Sovereignty has been the title of something that has had no dominion, while absolute power has been wielded by those who profess themselves the servants of the People. In the selfish strife of factions two great existences have been blotted out of the history of England — the Monarch and the Multitude; as the power of the Crown has diminished, the privileges of the People have disappeared; till at length the sceptre has become a pageant, and its subject has degenerated again into a serf.
It is nearly fourteen years ago, in the popular frenzy of a mean and selfish revolution which neither emancipated the Crown nor the People, that I first took the occasion to intimate and then to develope to the first assembly of my countrymen that I ever had the honour to address, these convictions. They have been misunderstood as is ever for a season the fate of Truth, and they have obtained for their promulgator much misrepresentation as must ever be the lot of those who will not follow the beaten track of a fallacious custom. But Time that brings all things has brought also to the mind of England some suspicion that the idols they have so long worshipped and the oracles that have so long deluded them are not the true ones. There is a whisper rising in this country that Loyalty is not a phrase. Faith not a delusion, and Popular Liberty something more diffusive and substantial than the profane exercise of the sacred rights of sovereignty by political classes.
That we may live to see England once more possess a free Monarchy and a privileged and prosperous People, is my prayer; that these great consequences can only be brought about by the enemy and devotion of our Youth is my persuasion. We live in an age when to be young and to be indifferent can be no longer synonymous. We must prepare for the coming hour. The claims of the Future are represented by suffering millions; and the Youth of a Nation are the trustees of Posterity.
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