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- The Old English Baron - 3/33 -
received him, that he strove to embrace him, but could not; but that he spoke to this effect: -- "Though I have been dead these fifteen years, I still command here, and none can enter these gates without my permission; know that it is I that invite, and bid you welcome; the hopes of my house rest upon you." Upon this he bid Sir Philip follow him; he led him through many rooms, till at last he sunk down, and Sir Philip thought he still followed him, till he came into a dark and frightful cave, where he disappeared, and in his stead he beheld a complete suit of armour stained with blood, which belonged to his friend, and he thought he heard dismal groans from beneath. Presently after, he thought he was hurried away by an invisible hand, and led into a wild heath, where the people were inclosing the ground, and making preparations for two combatants; the trumpet sounded, and a voice called out still louder, "Forbear! It is not permitted to be revealed till the time is ripe for the event; wait with patience on the decrees of heaven." He was then transported to his own house, where, going into an unfrequented room, he was again met by his friend, who was living, and in all the bloom of youth, as when he first knew him: He started at the sight, and awoke. The sun shone upon his curtains, and, perceiving it was day, he sat up, and recollected where he was. The images that impressed his sleeping fancy remained strongly on his mind waking; but his reason strove to disperse them; it was natural that the story he had heard should create these ideas, that they should wait on him in his sleep, and that every dream should bear some relation to his deceased friend. The sun dazzled his eyes, the birds serenaded him and diverted his attention, and a woodbine forced its way through the window, and regaled his sense of smelling with its fragrance. He arose, paid his devotions to Heaven, and then carefully descended the narrow stairs, and went out at the door of the cottage. There he saw the industrious wife and daughter of old Wyatt at their morning work, the one milking her cow, the other feeding her poultry. He asked for a draught of milk, which, with a slice of rye bread, served to break his fast. He walked about the fields alone; for old Wyatt and his two sons were gone out to their daily labour. He was soon called back by the good woman, who told him that a servant from the Baron waited to conduct him to the Castle. He took leave of Wyatt's wife, telling her he would see her again before he left the country. The daughter fetched his horse, which he mounted, and set forward with the servant, of whom he asked many questions concerning his master's family.
"How long have you lived with the Baron?"
"Is he a good master?"
"Yes, Sir, and also a good husband and father."
"What family has he?"
"Three sons and a daughter."
"What age are they of?"
"The eldest son is in his seventeenth year, the second in his sixteenth, the others several years younger; but beside these my Lord has several young gentlemen brought up with his own sons, two of which are his nephews; he keeps in his house a learned clerk to teach them languages; and as for all bodily exercises, none come near them; there is a fletcher to teach them the use of the cross-bow; a master to teach them to ride; another the use of the sword; another learns them to dance; and then they wrestle and run, and have such activity in all their motions, that it does one good to see them; and my Lord thinks nothing too much to bestow on their education."
"Truly," says Sir Philip, "he does the part of a good parent, and I honour him greatly for it; but are the young gentlemen of a promising disposition?"
"Yes indeed, Sir," answered the servant; "the young gentlemen, my Lord's sons, are hopeful youths; but yet there is one who is thought to exceed them all, though he is the son of a poor labourer."
"And who is he?" said the knight.
"One Edmund Twyford, the son of a cottager in our village; he is to be sure as fine a youth as ever the sun shone upon, and of so sweet a disposition that nobody envies his good fortune."
"What good fortune does he enjoy?"
"Why, Sir, about two years ago, my lord, at his sons request, took him into his own family, and gives him the same education as his own children; the young lords doat upon him, especially Master William, who is about his own age: It is supposed that he will attend the young Lords when they go to the wars, which my Lord intends they shall by and by."
"What you tell me," said Sir Philip, "increases every minute my respect for your Lord; he is an excellent father and master, he seeks out merit in obscurity; he distinguishes and rewards it, -- I honour him with all my heart."
In this manner they conversed together till they came within view of the castle. In a field near the house they saw a company of youths, with crossbows in their hands, shooting at a mark.
"There," said the servant, "are our young gentlemen at their exercises."
Sir Philip stopped his horse to observe them; he heard two or three of them cry out, "Edmund is the victor! He wins the prize!"
"I must," said Sir Philip, "take a view of this Edmund."
He jumped off his horse, gave the bridle to the servant, and walked into the field. The young gentlemen came up, and paid their respects to him; he apologized for intruding upon their sports, and asked which was the victor? Upon which the youth he spoke to beckoned to another, who immediately advanced, and made his obeisance; As he drew near, Sir Philip fixed his eyes upon him, with so much attention, that he seemed not to observe his courtesy and address. At length he recollected himself, and said, "What is your name, young man?"
"Edmund Twyford," replied the youth; "and I have the honour to attend upon the Lord Fitz-Owen's sons."
"Pray, noble sir," said the youth who first addressed Sir Philip, "are not you the stranger who is expected by my father?"
"I am, sir," answered he, "and I go to pay my respects to him."
"Will you excuse our attendance, Sir? We have not yet finished our exercises."
"My dear youth," said Sir Philip, "no apology is necessary; but will you favour me with your proper name, that I may know to whose courtesy I am obliged?"
"My name is William Fitz-Owen; that gentleman is my eldest brother, Master Robert; that other my kinsman, Master Richard Wenlock."
"Very well; I thank you, gentle Sir; I beg you not to stir another step, your servant holds my horse."
"Farewell, Sir," said Master William; "I hope we shall have the pleasure of meeting you at dinner."
The youths returned to their sports, and Sir Philip mounted his horse and proceeded to the castle; he entered it with a deep sigh, and melancholy recollections. The Baron received him with the utmost respect and courtesy. He gave a brief account of the principal events that had happened in the family of Lovel during his absence; he spoke of the late Lord Lovel with respect, of the present with the affection of a brother. Sir Philip, in return, gave a brief recital of his own adventures abroad, and of the disagreeable circumstances he had met with since his return home; he pathetically lamented the loss of all his friends, not forgetting that of his faithful servant on the way; saying he could be contented to give up the world, and retire to a religious house, but that he was withheld by the consideration, that some who depended entirely upon him, would want his presence and assistance; and, beside that, he thought he might be of service to many others. The Baron agreed with him in opinion, that a man was of much more service to the world who continued in it, than one who retired from it, and gave his fortune to the Church, whose servants did not always make the best use of it. Sir Philip then turned the conversation, and congratulated the Baron on his hopeful family; he praised their persons and address, and warmly applauded the care he bestowed on their education. The Baron listened with pleasure to the honest approbation of a worthy heart, and enjoyed the true happiness of a parent.
Sir Philip then made further enquiry concerning Edmund, whose appearance had struck him with an impression in his favour.
"That boy," said the Baron, "is the son of a cottager in this neighbourhood; his uncommon merit, and gentleness of manners, distinguish him from those of his own class; from his childhood he attracted the notice and affection of all that knew him; he was beloved everywhere but at his father's house, and there it should seem that his merits were his crimes; for the peasant, his father, hated him, treated him severely, and at length threatened to turn him out of doors; he used to run here and there on errands for my people, and at length they obliged me to take notice of him; my sons earnestly desired I would take him into my family; I did so about two years ago, intending to make him their servant; but his extraordinary genius and disposition have obliged me to look upon him in a superior light; perhaps I may incur the censure of many people, by giving him so many advantages, and treating him as the companion of my children; his merit must justify or condemn my partiality for him; however, I trust that I have secured to my children a faithful servant of the upper kind, and a useful friend to my family."
Sir Philip warmly applauded his generous host, and wished to be a sharer in his bounty to that fine youth, whose appearance indicated all the qualities that had endeared him to his companions.
At the hour of dinner the young men presented themselves before their Lord, and his guest. Sir Philip addressed himself to Edmund; he asked him many questions, and received modest and intelligent answers, and he grew every minute more pleased with him. After dinner the youths withdrew with their tutor to pursue their studies. Sir Philip sat for some time wrapt up in meditation. After some minutes, the Baron asked him, "If he might not be favoured with the fruits of his contemplations?"
"You shall, my Lord," answered he, "for you have a right to them. I was thinking, that when many blessings are lost, we should cherish those that remain, and even endeavour to replace the others. My Lord, I have
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