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- St. George and St. Michael - 30/94 -
the dryest summer beautified and comforted with fountains. Which engine when I found that it was in the power of my hands to do, as well as of my heart to conceive that it might be done, I did kneel down and give humble thanks from the bottom of my heart to the omnipotent God whose mercies are fathomless, for his vouchsafing me an insight into so great a secret of nature and so beneficial to all mankind as this my engine.'
With all her devotion to the king, and all her hatred and contempt of the parliament and the puritans, Dorothy could not help a doubt whether such independence might be altogether good either for the king himself or the people thus subjected to his will. But the farther doubt did not occur to her whether a pre-eminence gained chiefly by wealth was one to be on any grounds desired for the nation, or, setting that aside, was one which carried a single element favourable to perpetuity.
All this time they had been standing on the top of the keep, with the moonlight around them, and in their ears the noise of the water flowing from the dungeon well into the sky-roofed cistern. But now it came in diminished flow.
'It is the earth that fails in giving, not my engine in taking,' said lord Herbert as he turned to lead the way down the winding stair. Ever as they went, the noise of the water grew fainter and the noise of the engine grew louder, but just as they stepped from the stair, it gave a failing stroke or two, and ceased. A dense white cloud met them as they entered the vault.
'Stopped for the night, Caspar?' said his lordship.
'Yes, my lord; the well is nearly out.'
'Let it sleep,' returned his master; 'like a man's heart it will fill in the night. Thank God for the night and darkness and sleep, in which good things draw nigh like God's thieves, and steal themselves in--water into wells, and peace and hope and courage into the minds of men. Is it not so, my cousin?'
Dorothy did not answer in words, but she looked up in his face with a reverence in her eyes that showed she understood him. And this was one of the idolatrous catholics! It was neither the first nor the last of many lessons she had to receive, in order to learn that a man may be right although the creed for which he is and ought to be ready to die, may contain much that is wrong. Alas! that so few, even of such men, ever reflect, that it is the element common to all the creeds which gives its central value to each.
'I cannot show you the working of the engine to-night,' said lord Herbert. 'Caspar has decreed otherwise.'
'I can soon set her agoing again, my lord,' said Caspar.
'No, no. We must to the powder-mill, Caspar. Mistress Dorothy will come again to-morrow, and you must yourself explain to her the working and management of it, for I shall be away. And do not fear to trust my cousin, Caspar, although she be a soft-handed lady. Let her have the brute's halter in her own hold.'
Filled with gratitude for the trust he reposed in her, Dorothy took her leave, and the two workmen immediately abandoned their shop for the night, leaving the door wide open behind them to let out the vapours of the fire-engine, in the confidence that no unlicensed foot would dare to cross the threshold, and betook themselves to the powder-mill, where they continued at work the greater part of the night.
His lordship was unfavourable to the storing of powder because of the danger, seeing they could, on his calculation, from the materials lying ready for mixing, in one week prepare enough to keep all the ordnance on the castle walls busy for two. But indeed he had not such a high opinion of gunpowder but that he believed engines for projection, more powerful as well as less expensive, could be constructed, after the fashion of ballista or catapult, by the use of a mode he had discovered of immeasurably increasing the strength of springs, so that stones of a hundredweight might be thrown into a city from a quarter of a mile's distance without any noise audible to those within. It was this device he was brooding over when Dorothy came upon him by the arblast. Nor did the conviction arise from any prejudice against fire-arms, for he had, among many other wonderful things of the sort, in cannons, sakers, harquebusses, muskets, musquetoons, and all kinds, invented a pistol to discharge a dozen times with one loading, and without so much as new priming being once requisite, or the possessor having to change it out of one hand into the other, or stop his horse.
One who had happened to see lord Herbert as he went about within his father's walls, busy yet unhasting, earnest yet cheerful, rapid in all his movements yet perfectly composed, would hardly have imagined that a day at a time, or perhaps two, was all he was now able to spend there, days which were to him as breathing-holes in the ice to the wintered fishes. For not merely did he give himself to the enlisting of large numbers of men, but commanded both horse and foot, meeting all expenses from his own pocket, or with the assistance of his father. A few months before the period at which my story has arrived, he had in eight days raised six regiments, fortified Monmouth and Chepstow, and garrisoned half-a-dozen smaller but yet important places. About a hundred noblemen and gentlemen whom he had enrolled as a troop of life-guards, he furnished with the horses and arms which they were unable to provide with sufficient haste for themselves. So prominenf indeed were his services on behalf of the king, that his father was uneasy because of the jealousy and hate it would certainly rouse in the minds of some of his majesty's well-wishers--a just presentiment, as his son had too good reason to acknowledge after he had spent a million of money, besides the labour and thought and dangerous endeavour of years, in the king's service.
MOONLIGHT AND APPLE-BLOSSOMS.
The next morning, immediately after breakfast, lord Herbert set out for Chepstow first and then Monmouth, both which places belonged to his father, and were principal sources of his great wealth.
Still, amid the rush of the changeful tides of war around them, and the rumour of battle filling the air, all was peaceful within the defences of Raglan, and its towers looked abroad over a quiet country, where the cattle fed and the green wheat grew. On the far outskirts of vision, indeed, a smoke might be seen at times from the watch-tower, and across the air would come the dull boom of a great gun from one of the fortresses, at which lady Margaret's cheek would turn pale; but, although every day something was done to strengthen the castle, although masons were at work here and there about the walls like bees, and Caspar Kaltoff was busy in all directions, now mounting fresh guns, now repairing steel cross-bows, now getting out of the armoury the queerest oldest-fashioned engines to place wherever available points could be found, there was no hurry and no confusion, and indeed so little appearance of unusual activity, that an unmilitary stranger might have passed a week in the castle without discovering that preparations for defence were actively going on. All around them the buds were creeping out, uncurling, spreading abroad, straightening themselves, smoothing out the creases of their unfolding, and breathing the air of heaven--in some way very pleasant to creatures with roots as well as to creatures with legs. The apple-blossoms came out, and the orchard was lovely as with an upward-driven storm of roseate snow. Ladies were oftener seen passing through the gates and walking in the gardens--where the fountains had begun to play, and the swans and ducks on the lakes felt the return of spring in every fibre of their webby feet and cold scaly legs.
And Dorothy sat as it were at the spring-head of the waters, for, through her dominion over the fire-engine, she had become the naiad of Raglan. The same hour in which lord Herbert departed she went to Kaltoff, and was by him instructed in its mysteries. On the third day after, so entirely was the Dutchman satisfied with her understanding and management of it, that he gave up to her the whole water-business. And now, as I say, she sat at the source of all the streams and fountains of the place, and governed them all. The horse of marble spouted and ceased at her will, but in general she let the stream from his mouth flow all day long. Every water-cock on the great tower was subject to her. From the urn of her pleasure the cistern was daily filled, and from the summit of defence her flood went pouring into the moat around its feet, until it mantled to the brim, turning the weeds into a cold shadowy pavement of green for a foil to its pellucid depth. She understood all the secrets of the aqueous catapult, at which its contriver had little more than hinted on that memorable night when he disclosed so much, and believed she could arrange it for action without assistance. At the same time her new responsibilities required but a portion of her leisure, and lady Margaret was not the less pleased with the wise-headed girl, whose manners and mental ways were such a contrast to her own, that her husband considered her fit to be put in charge of his darling invention. But Dorothy kept silence concerning the trust to all but her mistress, who, on her part, was prudent enough to avoid any allusion which might raise yet higher the jealousy of her associates, by whom she was already regarded as supplanting them in the favour of their mistress.
One lovely evening in May, the moon at the full, the air warm yet fresh, the apple-blossoms at their largest, with as yet no spot upon their fair skin, and the nightingales singing out of their very bones, the season, the hour, the blossoms, and the moon had invaded every chamber in the castle, seized every heart of both man and beast, and turned all into one congregation of which the nightingales were the priests. The cocks were crowing as if it had been the dawn itself instead of its ghost they saw; the dogs were howling, but whether that was from love or hate of the moon, I cannot tell; the pigeons were cooing; the peacock had turned his train into a paralune, understanding well that the carnival could not be complete without him and his; and the wild beasts were restless, uttering a short yell now and then, at least aware that something was going on. All the inhabitants of the castle were out of doors, the ladies and gentlemen in groups here and there about the gardens and lawns and islands, and the domestics, and such of the garrison as were not on duty, wandering hither and thither where they pleased, careful only not to intrude on their superiors.
Lady Margaret was walking with her step-son Henry on a lawn under
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