’Twas when they raised, ‘mid sap and siege,
The banners of their rightful liege,
At their she-captain’s call,
Who, miracle of womankind!
Lent mettle to the meanest hind
That mann’d her castle wall.
WILLIAM S. ROSE.
On the morning succeeding the feast, the Lady Peveril, fatigued with the exertions and the apprehensions of the former day, kept her apartment for two or three hours later than her own active habits, and the matutinal custom of the time, rendered usual. Meanwhile, Mistress Ellesmere, a person of great trust in the family, and who assumed much authority in her mistress’s absence, laid her orders upon Deborah, the governante, immediately to carry the children to their airing in the park, and not to let any one enter the gilded chamber, which was usually their sporting-place. Deborah, who often rebelled, and sometimes successfully, against the deputed authority of Ellesmere, privately resolved that it was about to rain, and that the gilded chamber was a more suitable place for the children’s exercise than the wet grass of the park on a raw morning.
But a woman’s brain is sometimes as inconstant as a popular assembly; and presently after she had voted the morning was like to be rainy, and that the gilded chamber was the fittest play-room for the children, Mistress Deborah came to the somewhat inconsistent resolution, that the park was the fittest place for her own morning walk. It is certain, that during the unrestrained joviality of the preceding evening, she had danced till midnight with Lance Outram the park-keeper; but how far the seeing him just pass the window in his woodland trim, with a feather in his hat, and a crossbow under his arm, influenced the discrepancy of the opinions Mistress Deborah formed concerning the weather, we are far from presuming to guess. It is enough for us, that, so soon as Mistress Ellesmere’s back was turned, Mistress Deborah carried the children into the gilded chamber, not without a strict charge (for we must do her justice) to Master Julian to take care of his little wife, Mistress Alice; and then, having taken so satisfactory a precaution, she herself glided into the park by the glass-door of the still-room, which was nearly opposite to the great breach.
The gilded chamber in which the children were, by this arrangement, left to amuse themselves, without better guardianship than what Julian’s manhood afforded, was a large apartment, hung with stamped Spanish leather, curiously gilded, representing, in a manner now obsolete, but far from unpleasing, a series of tilts and combats betwixt the Saracens of Grenada, and the Spaniards under the command of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, during that memorable siege, which was terminated by the overthrow of the last fragments of the Moorish empire in Spain.
The little Julian was careering about the room for the amusement of his infant friend, as well as his own, mimicking with a reed the menacing attitude of the Abencerrages and Zegris engaged in the Eastern sport of hurling the JERID, or javelin; and at times sitting down beside her, and caressing her into silence and good humour, when the petulant or timid child chose to become tired of remaining an inactive spectator of his boisterous sport; when, on a sudden, he observed one of the panelled compartments of the leather hangings slide apart, so as to show a fair hand, with its fingers resting upon its edge, prepared, it would seem, to push it still farther back. Julian was much surprised, and somewhat frightened, at what he witnessed, for the tales of the nursery had strongly impressed on his mind the terrors of the invisible world. Yet, naturally bold and high-spirited, the little champion placed himself beside his defenceless sister, continuing to brandish his weapon in her defence, as boldly as he had himself been an Abencerrage of Grenada.
The panel, on which his eye was fixed, gradually continued to slide back, and display more and more the form to which the hand appertained, until, in the dark aperture which was disclosed, the children saw the figure of a lady in a mourning dress, past the meridian of life, but whose countenance still retained traces of great beauty, although the predominant character both of her features and person was an air of almost royal dignity. After pausing a moment on the threshold of the portal which she had thus unexpectedly disclosed, and looking with some surprise at the children, whom she had not probably observed while engaged with the management of the panel, the stranger stepped into the apartment, and the panel, upon a touch of a spring, closed behind her so suddenly, that Julian almost doubted it had ever been open, and began to apprehend that the whole apparition had been a delusion.
The stately lady, however, advanced to him, and said, “Are not you the little Peveril?”
“Yes,” said the boy, reddening, not altogether without a juvenile feeling of that rule of chivalry which forbade any one to disown his name, whatever danger might be annexed to the avowal of it.
“Then,” said the stately stranger, “go to your mother’s room, and tell her to come instantly to speak with me.”
“I wo’not,” said the little Julian.
“How?” said the lady — “so young and so disobedient? — but you do but follow the fashion of the time. Why will you not go, my pretty boy, when I ask it of you as a favour?”
“I would go, madam,” said the boy, “but”— and he stopped short, still drawing back as the lady advanced on him, but still holding by the hand Alice Bridgenorth, who, too young to understand the nature of the dialogue, clung, trembling, to her companion.
The stranger saw his embarrassment, smiled, and remained standing fast, while she asked the child once more, “What are you afraid of, my brave boy — and why should you not go to your mother on my errand?”
“Because,” answered Julian firmly, “if I go, little Alice must stay alone with you.”
“You are a gallant fellow,” said the lady, “and will not disgrace your blood, which never left the weak without protection.”
The boy understood her not, and still gazed with anxious apprehension, first on her who addressed him, and then upon his little companion, whose eyes, with the vacant glance of infancy, wandered from the figure of the lady to that of her companion and protector, and at length, infected by a portion of the fear which the latter’s magnanimous efforts could not entirely conceal, she flew into Julian’s arms, and, clinging to him, greatly augmented his alarm, and by screaming aloud, rendered it very difficult for him to avoid the sympathetic fear which impelled him to do the same.
There was something in the manner and bearing of this unexpected inmate which might justify awe at least, if not fear, when joined to the singular and mysterious mode in which she had made her appearance. Her dress was not remarkable, being the hood and female riding attire of the time, such as was worn by the inferior class of gentlewomen; but her black hair was very long, and, several locks having escaped from under her hood, hung down dishevelled on her neck and shoulders. Her eyes were deep black, keen, and piercing, and her features had something of a foreign expression. When she spoke, her language was marked by a slight foreign accent, although, in construction, it was pure English. Her slightest tone and gesture had the air of one accustomed to command and to be obeyed; the recollection of which probably suggested to Julian the apology he afterwards made for being frightened, that he took the stranger for an “enchanted queen.”
While the stranger lady and the children thus confronted each other, two persons entered almost at the same instant, but from different doors, whose haste showed that they had been alarmed by the screams of the latter.
The first was Major Bridgenorth, whose ears had been alarmed with the cries of his child, as he entered the hall, which corresponded with what was called the gilded chamber. His intention had been to remain in the more public apartment, until the Lady Peveril should make her appearance, with the good-natured purpose of assuring her that the preceding day of tumult had passed in every respect agreeably to his friends, and without any of those alarming consequences which might have been apprehended from a collision betwixt the parties. But when it is considered how severely he had been agitated by apprehensions for his child’s safety and health, too well justified by the fate of those who had preceded her, it will not be thought surprising that the infantine screams of Alice induced him to break through the barriers of form, and intrude farther into the interior of the house than a sense of strict propriety might have warranted.
He burst into the gilded chamber, therefore, by a side-door and narrow passage, which communicated betwixt that apartment and the hall, and, snatching the child up in his arms, endeavoured, by a thousand caresses, to stifle the screams which burst yet more violently from the little girl, on beholding herself in the arms of one to whose voice and manner she was, but for one brief interview, an entire stranger.
Of course, Alice’s shrieks were redoubled, and seconded by those of Julian Peveril, who, on the appearance of this second intruder, was frightened into resignation of every more manly idea of rescue than that which consisted in invoking assistance at the very top of his lungs.
Alarmed by this noise, which in half a minute became very clamorous, Lady Peveril, with whose apartment the gilded chamber was connected by a private door of communication opening into her wardrobe, entered on the scene. The instant she appeared, the little Alice, extricating herself from the grasp of her father, ran towards her protectress, and when she had once taken hold of her skirts, not only became silent, but turned her large blue eyes, in which the tears were still glistening, with a look of wonder rather than alarm, towards the strange lady. Julian manfully brandished his reed, a weapon which he had never parted with during the whole alarm, and stood prepared to assist his mother if there should be danger in the encounter betwixt her and the stranger.
In fact, it might have puzzled an older person to account for the sudden and confused pause which the Lady Peveril made, as she gazed on her unexpected guest, as if dubious whether she did, or did not recognise, in her still beautiful though wasted and emaciated features, a countenance which she had known well under far different circumstances.
The stranger seemed to understand the cause of hesitation, for she said in that heart-thrilling voice which was peculiarly her own —
“Time and misfortune have changed me much, Margaret — that every mirror tells me — yet methinks, Margaret Stanley might still have known Charlotte de la Tremouille.”
The Lady Peveril was little in the custom of giving way to sudden emotion, but in the present case she threw herself on her knees in a rapture of mingled joy and grief, and, half embracing those of the stranger, exclaimed, in broken language —
“My kind, my noble benefactress — the princely Countess of Derby — the royal queen in Man — could I doubt your voice, your features, for a moment — Oh, forgive, forgive me!”
The Countess raised the suppliant kinswoman of her husband’s house, with all the grace of one accustomed from early birth to receive homage and to grant protection. She kissed the Lady Peveril’s forehead, and passed her hand in a caressing manner over her face as she said —
“You too are changed, my fair cousin, but it is a change becomes you, from a pretty and timid maiden to a sage and comely matron. But my own memory, which I once held a good one, has failed me strangely, if this gentleman be Sir Geoffrey Peveril.”
“A kind and good neighbour only, madam,” said Lady Peveril; “Sir Geoffrey is at Court.”
“I understood so much,” said the Countess of Derby, “when I arrived here last night.”
“How, madam!” said Lady Peveril —“Did you arrive at Martindale Castle — at the house of Margaret Stanley, where you have such right to command, and did not announce your presence to her?”
“Oh, I know you are a dutiful subject, Margaret,” answered the Countess, “though it be in these days a rare character — but it was our pleasure,” she added, with a smile, “to travel incognito — and finding you engaged in general hospitality, we desired not to disturb you with our royal presence.”
“But how and where were you lodged, madam?” said Lady Peveril; “or why should you have kept secret a visit which would, if made, have augmented tenfold the happiness of every true heart that rejoiced here yesterday?”
“My lodging was well cared for by Ellesmere — your Ellesmere now, as she was formerly mine — she has acted as quartermaster ere now, you know, and on a broader scale; you must excuse her — she had my positive order to lodge me in the most secret part of your Castle”—(here she pointed to the sliding panel)—“she obeyed orders in that, and I suppose also in sending you now hither.”
“Indeed I have not yet seen her,” said the lady, “and therefore was totally ignorant of a visit so joyful, so surprising.”
“And I,” said the Countess, “was equally surprised to find none but these beautiful children in the apartment where I thought I heard you moving. Our Ellesmere has become silly — your good-nature has spoiled her — she has forgotten the discipline she learned under me.”
“I saw her run through the wood,” said the Lady Peveril, after a moment’s recollection, “undoubtedly to seek the person who has charge of the children, in order to remove them.”
“Your own darlings, I doubt not,” said the Countess, looking at the children. “Margaret, Providence has blessed you.”
“That is my son,” said the Lady Peveril, pointing to Julian, who stood devouring their discourse with greedy ear; “the little girl — I may call mine too.” Major Bridgenorth, who had in the meantime again taken up his infant, and was engaged in caressing it, set it down as the Countess of Derby spoke, sighed deeply, and walked towards the oriel window. He was well aware that the ordinary rules of courtesy would have rendered it proper that he should withdraw entirely, or at least offer to do so; but he was not a man of ceremonious politeness, and he had a particular interest in the subjects on which the Countess’s discourse was likely to turn, which induced him to dispense with ceremony. The ladies seemed indeed scarce to notice his presence. The Countess had now assumed a chair, and motioned to the Lady Peveril to sit upon a stool which was placed by her side. “We will have old times once more, though there are here no roaring of rebel guns to drive you to take refuge at my side, and almost in my pocket.”
“I have a gun, madam,” said little Julian, “and the park-keeper is to teach me how to fire it next year.”
“I will list you for my soldier, then,” said the Countess.
“Ladies have no soldiers,” said the boy, looking wistfully at her.
“He has the true masculine contempt of our frail sex, I see,” said the Countess; “it is born with the insolent varlets of mankind, and shows itself so soon as they are out of their long clothes. — Did Ellesmere never tell you of Latham House and Charlotte of Derby, my little master?”
“A thousand thousand times,” said the boy, colouring; “and how the Queen of Man defended it six weeks against three thousand Roundheads, under Rogue Harrison the butcher.”
“It was your mother defended Latham House,” said the Countess, “not I, my little soldier — Hadst thou been there, thou hadst been the best captain of the three.”
“Do not say so, madam,” said the boy, “for mamma would not touch a gun for all the universe.”
“Not I, indeed, Julian,” said his mother; “there I was for certain, but as useless a part of the garrison ——”
“You forget,” said the Countess, “you nursed our hospital, and made lint for the soldiers’ wounds.”
“But did not papa come to help you?” said Julian.
“Papa came at last,” said the Countess, “and so did Prince Rupert — but not, I think, till they were both heartily wished for. — Do you remember that morning, Margaret, when the round-headed knaves, that kept us pent up so long, retreated without bag or baggage, at the first glance of the Prince’s standards appearing on the hill — and how you took every high-crested captain you saw for Peveril of the Peak, that had been your partner three months before at the Queen’s mask? Nay, never blush for the thought of it — it was an honest affection — and though it was the music of trumpets that accompanied you both to the old chapel, which was almost entirely ruined by the enemy’s bullets; and though Prince Rupert, when he gave you away at the altar, was clad in buff and bandoleer, with pistols in his belt, yet I trust these warlike signs were no type of future discord?”
“Heaven has been kind to me,” said the Lady Peveril, “in blessing me with an affectionate husband.”
“And in preserving him to you,” said the Countess, with a deep sigh; “while mine, alas! sealed with his blood his devotion to his king*— Oh, had he lived to see this day!”
* The Earl of Derby and King in Man was beheaded at Bolton-on-the-Moors, after having been made prisoner in a previous skirmish in Wiggan Lane.
“Alas! alas! that he was not permitted!” answered Lady Peveril; “how had that brave and noble Earl rejoiced in the unhoped-for redemption of our captivity!”
The Countess looked on Lady Peveril with an air of surprise.
“Thou hast not then heard, cousin, how it stands with our house? — How indeed had my noble lord wondered, had he been told that the very monarch for whom he had laid down his noble life on the scaffold at Bolton-le-Moor, should make it his first act of restored monarchy to complete the destruction of our property, already well-nigh ruined in the royal cause, and to persecute me his widow!”
“You astonish me, madam!” said the Lady Peveril. “It cannot be, that you — that you, the wife of the gallant, the faithful, the murdered Earl — you, Countess of Derby, and Queen in Man — you, who took on you even the character of a soldier, and seemed a man when so many men proved women — that you should sustain evil from the event which has fulfilled — exceeded — the hopes of every faithful subject — it cannot be!”
“Thou art as simple, I see, in this world’s knowledge as ever, my fair cousin,” answered the Countess. “This restoration, which has given others security, has placed me in danger — this change which relieved other Royalists, scarce less zealous, I presume to think, than I— has sent me here a fugitive, and in concealment, to beg shelter and assistance from you, fair cousin.”
“From me,” answered the Lady Peveril —“from me, whose youth your kindness sheltered — from the wife of Peveril, your gallant Lord’s companion in arms — you have a right to command everything; but, alas! that you should need such assistance as I can render — forgive me, but it seems like some ill-omened vision of the night — I listen to your words as if I hoped to be relieved from their painful import by awaking.”
“It is indeed a dream — a vision,” said the Countess of Derby; “but it needs no seer to read it — the explanation hath been long since given — Put not your faith in princes. I can soon remove your surprise. — This gentleman, your friend, is doubtless honest?”
The Lady Peveril well knew that the Cavaliers, like other factions, usurped to themselves the exclusive denomination of the honest party, and she felt some difficulty in explaining that her visitor was not honest in that sense of the word.
“Had we not better retire, madam?” she said to the Countess, rising, as if in order to attend her. But the Countess retained her seat.
“It was but a question of habit,” she said; “the gentleman’s principles are nothing to me, for what I have to tell you is widely blazed, and I care not who hears my share of it. You remember — you must have heard, for I think Margaret Stanley would not be indifferent to my fate — that after my husband’s murder at Bolton, I took up the standard which he never dropped until his death, and displayed it with my own hand in our Sovereignty of Man.”
“I did indeed hear so, madam,” said the Lady Peveril; “and that you had bidden a bold defiance to the rebel government, even after all other parts of Britain had submitted to them. My husband, Sir Geoffrey, designed at one time to have gone to your assistance with some few followers; but we learned that the island was rendered to the Parliament party, and that you, dearest lady, were thrown into prison.”
“But you heard not,” said the Countess, “how that disaster befell me. — Margaret, I would have held out that island against the knaves as long as the sea continued to flow around it. Till the shoals which surround it had become safe anchorage — till its precipices had melted beneath the sunshine — till of all its strong abodes and castles not one stone remained upon another — would I have defended against these villainous hypocritical rebels, my dear husband’s hereditary dominion. The little kingdom of Man should have been yielded only when not an arm was left to wield a sword, not a finger to draw a trigger in its defence. But treachery did what force could never have done. When we had foiled various attempts upon the island by open force — treason accomplished what Blake and Lawson, with their floating castles, had found too hazardous an enterprise — a base rebel, whom we had nursed in our own bosoms, betrayed us to the enemy. This wretch was named Christian ——”
Major Bridgenorth started and turned towards the speaker, but instantly seemed to recollect himself, and again averted his face. The Countess proceeded, without noticing the interruption, which, however, rather surprised Lady Peveril, who was acquainted with her neighbour’s general habits of indifference and apathy, and therefore the more surprised at his testifying such sudden symptoms of interest. She would once again have moved the Countess to retire to another apartment, but Lady Derby proceeded with too much vehemence to endure interruption.
“This Christian,” she said, “had eaten of my lord his sovereign’s bread, and drunk of his cup, even from childhood — for his fathers had been faithful servants to the House of Man and Derby. He himself had fought bravely by my husband’s side, and enjoyed all his confidence; and when my princely Earl was martyred by the rebels, he recommended to me, amongst other instructions communicated in the last message I received from him, to continue my confidence in Christian’s fidelity. I obeyed, although I never loved the man. He was cold and phlegmatic, and utterly devoid of that sacred fire which is the incentive to noble deeds, suspected, too, of leaning to the cold metaphysics of Calvinistic subtlety. But he was brave, wise, and experienced, and, as the event proved, possessed but too much interest with the islanders. When these rude people saw themselves without hope of relief, and pressed by a blockade, which brought want and disease into their island, they began to fall off from the faith which they had hitherto shown.”
“What!” said the Lady Peveril, “could they forget what was due to the widow of their benefactor — she who had shared with the generous Derby the task of bettering their condition?”
“Do not blame them,” said the Countess; “the rude herd acted but according to their kind — in present distress they forgot former benefits, and, nursed in their earthen hovels, with spirits suited to their dwellings, they were incapable of feeling the glory which is attached to constancy in suffering. But that Christian should have headed their revolt — that he, born a gentleman, and bred under my murdered Derby’s own care in all that was chivalrous and noble — that he should have forgot a hundred benefits — why do I talk of benefits? — that he should have forgotten that kindly intercourse which binds man to man far more than the reciprocity of obligation — that he should have headed the ruffians who broke suddenly into my apartment — immured me with my infants in one of my own castles, and assumed or usurped the tyranny of the island — that this should have been done by William Christian, my vassal, my servant, my friend, was a deed of ungrateful treachery, which even this age of treason will scarcely parallel!”
“And you were then imprisoned,” said the Lady Peveril, “and in your own sovereignty?”
“For more than seven years I have endured strict captivity,” said the Countess. “I was indeed offered my liberty, and even some means of support, if I would have consented to leave the island, and pledge my word that I would not endeavour to repossess my son in his father’s rights. But they little knew the princely house from which I spring — and as little the royal house of Stanley which I uphold, who hoped to humble Charlotte of Tremouille into so base a composition. I would rather have starved in the darkest and lowest vault of Rushin Castle, than have consented to aught which might diminish in one hair’s-breadth the right of my son over his father’s sovereignty!”
“And could not your firmness, in a case where hope seemed lost, induce them to be generous and dismiss you without conditions?”
“They knew me better than thou dost, wench,” answered the Countess; “once at liberty, I had not been long without the means of disturbing their usurpation, and Christian would have as soon encaged a lioness to combat with, as have given me the slightest power of returning to the struggle with him. But time had liberty and revenge in store — I had still friends and partisans in the island, though they were compelled to give way to the storm. Even among the islanders at large, most had been disappointed in the effects which they expected from the change of power. They were loaded with exactions by their new masters, their privileges were abridged, and their immunities abolished, under the pretext of reducing them to the same condition with the other subjects of the pretended republic. When the news arrived of the changes which were current in Britain, these sentiments were privately communicated to me. Calcott and others acted with great zeal and fidelity; and a rising, effected as suddenly and effectually as that which had made me a captive, placed me at liberty and in possession of the sovereignty of Man, as Regent for my son, the youthful Earl of Derby. Do you think I enjoyed that sovereignty long without doing justice on that traitor Christian?”
“How, madam,” said Lady Peveril, who, though she knew the high and ambitious spirit of the Countess, scarce anticipated the extremities to which it was capable of hurrying her —“have you imprisoned Christian?”
“Ay, wench — in that sure prison which felon never breaks from,” answered the Countess.
Bridgenorth, who had insensibly approached them, and was listening with an agony of interest which he was unable any longer to suppress, broke in with the stern exclamation —
“Lady, I trust you have not dared ——”
The Countess interrupted him in her turn.
“I know not who you are who question — and you know not me when you speak to me of that which I dare, or dare not do. But you seem interested in the fate of this Christian, and you shall hear it. — I was no sooner placed in possession of my rightful power, than I ordered the Dempster of the island to hold upon the traitor a High Court of Justice, with all the formalities of the isle, as prescribed in its oldest records. The Court was held in the open air, before the Dempster and the Keys of the island, assembled under the vaulted cope of heaven, and seated on the terrace of the Zonwald Hill, where of old Druid and Scald held their courts of judgment. The criminal was heard at length in his own defence, which amounted to little more than those specious allegations of public consideration, which are ever used to colour the ugly front of treason. He was fully convicted of his crime, and he received the doom of a traitor.”
“But which, I trust, is not yet executed?” said Lady Peveril, not without an involuntary shudder.
“You are a fool, Margaret,” said the Countess sharply; “think you I delayed such an act of justice, until some wretched intrigues of the new English Court might have prompted their interference? No, wench — he passed from the judgment-seat to the place of execution, with no farther delay than might be necessary for his soul’s sake. He was shot to death by a file of musketeers in the common place of execution called Hango Hill.”
Bridgenorth clasped his hands together, wrung them, and groaned bitterly.
“As you seem interested for this criminal,” added the Countess, addressing Bridgenorth, “I do him but justice in repeating to you, that his death was firm and manly, becoming the general tenor of his life, which, but for that gross act of traitorous ingratitude, had been fair and honourable. But what of that? The hypocrite is a saint, and the false traitor a man of honour, till opportunity, that faithful touchstone, proves their metal to be base.”
“It is false, woman — it is false!” said Bridgenorth, no longer suppressing his indignation.
“What means this bearing, Master Bridgenorth?” said Lady Peveril, much surprised. “What is this Christian to you, that you should insult the Countess of Derby under my roof?”
“Speak not to me of countesses and of ceremonies,” said Bridgenorth; “grief and anger leave me no leisure for idle observances to humour the vanity of overgrown children. — O Christian — worthy, well worthy, of the name thou didst bear! My friend — my brother — the brother of my blessed Alice — the only friend of my desolate estate! art thou then cruelly murdered by a female fury, who, but for thee, had deservedly paid with her own blood that of God’s saints, which she, as well as her tyrant husband, had spilled like water! — Yes, cruel murderess!” he continued, addressing the Countess, “he whom thou hast butchered in thy insane vengeance, sacrificed for many a year the dictates of his own conscience to the interest of thy family, and did not desert it till thy frantic zeal for royalty had well-nigh brought to utter perdition the little community in which he was born. Even in confining thee, he acted but as the friends of the madman, who bind him with iron for his own preservation; and for thee, as I can bear witness, he was the only barrier between thee and the wrath of the Commons of England; and but for his earnest remonstrances, thou hadst suffered the penalty of thy malignancy, even like the wicked wife of Ahab.”
“Master Bridgenorth,” said the Lady Peveril, “I will allow for your impatience upon hearing these unpleasing tidings; but there is neither use nor propriety in farther urging this question. If in your grief you forget other restraints, I pray you to remember that the Countess is my guest and kinswoman, and is under such protection as I can afford her. I beseech you, in simple courtesy, to withdraw, as what must needs be the best and most becoming course in these trying circumstances.”
“Nay, let him remain,” said the Countess, regarding him with composure, not unmingled with triumph; “I would not have it otherwise; I would not that my revenge should be summed up in the stinted gratification which Christian’s death hath afforded. This man’s rude and clamorous grief only proves that the retribution I have dealt has been more widely felt than by the wretched sufferer himself. I would I knew that it had but made sore as many rebel hearts, as there were loyal breasts afflicted by the death of my princely Derby!”
“So please you, madam,” said Lady Peveril, “since Master Bridgenorth hath not the manners to leave us upon my request, we will, if your ladyship lists, leave him, and retire to my apartment. — Farewell, Master Bridgenorth; we will meet hereafter on better terms.”
“Pardon me, madam,” said the Major, who had been striding hastily through the room, but now stood fast, and drew himself up, as one who has taken a resolution; —“to yourself I have nothing to say but what is respectful; but to this woman I must speak as a magistrate. She has confessed a murder in my presence — the murder too of my brother-inlaw — as a man, and as a magistrate, I cannot permit her to pass from hence, excepting under such custody as may prevent her farther flight. She has already confessed that she is a fugitive, and in search of a place of concealment, until she should be able to escape into foreign parts. — Charlotte, Countess of Derby, I attach thee of the crime of which thou hast but now made thy boast.”
“I shall not obey your arrest,” said the Countess composedly; “I was born to give, but not to receive such orders. What have your English laws to do with my acts of justice and of government, within my son’s hereditary kingdom? Am I not Queen in Man, as well as Countess of Derby? A feudatory Sovereign indeed; but yet independent so long as my dues of homage are duly discharged. What right can you assert over me?”
“That given by the precepts of Scripture,” answered Bridgenorth — “‘Whoso spilleth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be spilled.’ Think not the barbarous privileges of ancient feudal customs will avail to screen you from the punishment due for an Englishman murdered upon pretexts inconsistent with the act of indemnity.”
“Master Bridgenorth,” said the Lady Peveril, “if by fair terms you desist not from your present purpose, I tell you that I neither dare, nor will, permit any violence against this honourable lady within the walls of my husband’s castle.”
“You will find yourself unable to prevent me from executing my duty, madam,” said Bridgenorth, whose native obstinacy now came in aid of his grief and desire of revenge; “I am a magistrate, and act by authority.”
“I know not that,” said Lady Peveril. “That you were a magistrate, Master Bridgenorth, under the late usurping powers, I know well; but till I hear of your having a commission in the name of the King, I now hesitate to obey you as such.”
“I shall stand on small ceremony,” said Bridgenorth. “Were I no magistrate, every man has title to arrest for murder against the terms of the indemnities held out by the King’s proclamations, and I will make my point good.”
“What indemnities? What proclamations?” said the Countess of Derby indignantly. “Charles Stuart may, if he pleases (and it doth seem to please him), consort with those whose hands have been red with the blood, and blackened with the plunder, of his father and of his loyal subjects. He may forgive them if he will, and count their deeds good service. What has that to do with this Christian’s offence against me and mine? Born a Mankesman — bred and nursed in the island — he broke the laws under which he lived, and died for the breach of them, after the fair trial which they allowed. — Methinks, Margaret, we have enough of this peevish and foolish magistrate — I attend you to your apartment.”
Major Bridgenorth placed himself betwixt them and the door, in a manner which showed him determined to interrupt their passage; when the Lady Peveril, who thought she already showed more deference to him in this matter than her husband was likely to approve of, raised her voice, and called loudly on her steward, Whitaker. That alert person, who had heard high talking, and a female voice with which he was unacquainted, had remained for several minutes stationed in the anteroom, much afflicted with the anxiety of his own curiosity. Of course he entered in an instant.
“Let three of the men instantly take arms,” said the lady; “bring them into the anteroom, and wait my farther orders.”
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:13