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- St. George and St. Michael Vol. I - 3/27 -
'St. Michael for the Truth!' cried Richard.
'So be it. Good-bye, then,' said the girl, going.
'What DO you mean, Dorothy?' said Richard; and she stood to hear, but with her back towards him, and, as it were, hovering midway in a pace. 'Did not St. Michael also slay his dragon? Why should the knights part company? Believe me, Dorothy, I care more for a smile from you than for all the bishops in the church, or all the presbyters out of it.'
'You take needless pains to prove yourself a foolish boy, Richard; and if I go not to my mother at once, I fear I shall learn to despise you--which I would not willingly.'
'Despise me! Do you take me for a coward then, Dorothy?'
'I say not that. I doubt not, for the matter of swords and pistols, you are much like other male creatures; but I protest I could never love a man who preferred my company to the service of his king.'
She glided into the alley and sped along its vaulted twilight, her white dress gleaming and clouding by fits as she went.
The youth stood for a moment petrified, then started to overtake her, but stood stock-still at the entrance of the alley, and followed her only with his eyes as she went.
When Dorothy reached the house, she did not run up to her room that she might weep unseen. She was still too much annoyed with Richard to regret having taken such leave of him. She only swallowed down a little balloonful of sobs, and went straight into the parlour, where her mother and Mr. Herbert still sat, and resumed her seat in the bay window. Her heightened colour, an occasional toss of her head backwards, like that with which a horse seeks ease from the bearing- rein, generally followed by a renewal of the attempt to swallow something of upward tendency, were the only signs of her discomposure, and none of them were observed by her mother or her guest. Could she have known, however, what feelings had already begun to rouse themselves in the mind of him whose boyishness was an offence to her, she would have found it more difficult to keep such composure.
Dorothy's was a face whose forms were already so decided that, should no softening influences from the central regions gain the ascendancy, beyond a doubt age must render it hard and unlovely. In all the roundness and freshness of girlhood, it was handsome rather than beautiful, beautiful rather than lovely. And yet it was strongly attractive, for it bore clear indication of a nature to be trusted. If her grey eyes were a little cold, they were honest eyes, with a rare look of steadfastness; and if her lips were a little too closely pressed, it was clearly from any cause rather than bad temper. Neither head, hands, nor feet were small, but they were fine in form and movement; and for the rest of her person, tall and strong as Richard was, Dorothy looked further advanced in the journey of life than he.
She needed hardly, however, have treated his indifference to the politics of the time with so much severity, seeing her own acquaintance with and interest in them dated from that same afternoon, during which, from lack of other employment, and the weariness of a long morning of slow, dismal rain, she had been listening to Mr. Herbert as he dwelt feelingly on the arrogance of puritan encroachment, and the grossness of presbyterian insolence both to kingly prerogative and episcopal authority, and drew a touching picture of the irritant thwartings and pitiful insults to which the gentle monarch was exposed in his attempts to support the dignity of his divine office, and to cast its protecting skirt over the defenceless church; and if it was with less sympathy that he spoke of the fears which haunted the captive metropolitan, Dorothy at least could detect no hidden sarcasm in the tone in which he expressed his hope that Laud's devotion to the beauty of holiness might not result in the dignity of martyrdom, as might well be feared by those who were assured that the whole guilt of Strafford lay in his return to his duty, and his subsequent devotion to the interests of his royal master: to all this the girl had listened, and her still sufficiently uncertain knowledge of the affairs of the nation had, ere the talk was over, blossomed in a vague sense of partizanship. It was chiefly her desire after the communion of sympathy with Richard that had led her into the mistake of such a hasty disclosure of her new feelings.
But her following words had touched him--whether to fine issues or not remained yet poised on the knife-edge of the balancing will. His first emotion partook of anger. As soon as she was out of sight a spell seemed broken, and words came.
'A boy, indeed, mistress Dorothy!' he said. 'If ever it come to what certain persons prophesy, you may wish me in truth, and that for the sake of your precious bishops, the boy you call me now. Yes, you are right, mistress, though I would it had been another who told me so! Boy indeed I am--or have been--without a thought in my head but of her. The sound of my father's voice has been but as the wind of the winnowing fan. In me it has found but chaff. If you will have me take a side, though, you will find me so far worthy of you that I shall take the side that seems to me the right one, were all the fair Dorothies of the universe on the other. In very truth I should be somewhat sorry to find the king and the bishops in the right, lest my lady should flatter herself and despise me that I had chosen after her showing, forsooth! This is master Herbert's doing, for never before did I hear her speak after such fashion.'
While he thus spoke with himself, he stood, like the genius of the spot, a still dusky figure on the edge of the night, into which his dress of brown velvet, rich and sombre at once in the sunlight, all but merged. Nearly for the first time in his life he was experiencing the difficulty of making up his mind, not, however, upon any of the important questions, his inattention to which had exposed him to such sudden and unexpected severity, but merely as to whether he should seek her again in the company of her mother and Mr. Herbert, or return home. The result of his deliberation, springing partly, no doubt, from anger, but that of no very virulent type, was, that he turned his back on the alley, passed through a small opening in the yew hedge, crossed a neglected corner of woodland, by ways better known to him than to any one else, and came out upon the main road leading to the gates of his father's park.
RICHARD AND HIS FATHER.
Richard Heywood, as to bodily fashion, was a tall and already powerful youth. The clear brown of his complexion spoke of plentiful sunshine and air. A merry sparkle in the depths of his hazel eyes relieved the shadows of rather notably heavy lids, themselves heavily overbrowed--with a suggestion of character which had not yet asserted itself to those who knew him best. Correspondingly, his nose, although of a Greek type, was more notable for substance than clearness of line or modelling; while his lips had a boyish fulness along with a definiteness of bow-like curve, which manly resolve had not yet begun to compress and straighten out. His chin was at least large enough not to contradict the promise of his face; his shoulders were square, and his chest and limbs well developed: altogether it was at present a fair tabernacle--of whatever sort the indwelling divinity might yet turn out, fashioning it further after his own nature.
His father and he were the only male descendants of an old Monmouthshire family, of neither Welsh nor Norman, but as pure Saxon blood as might be had within the clip of the ocean. Roger, the father, had once only or twice in his lifetime been heard boast, in humorous fashion, that although but a simple squire, he could, on this side the fog of tradition, which nearer or further shrouds all origin, count a longer descent than any of the titled families in the county, not excluding the earl of Worcester himself. His character also would have gone far to support any assertion he might have chosen to make as to the purity of his strain. A notable immobility of nature--his friends called it firmness, his enemies obstinacy; a seeming disregard of what others might think of him; a certain sternness of manner--an unreadiness, as it were, to open his door to the people about him; a searching regard with which he was wont to peruse the face of anyone holding talk with him, when he seemed always to give heed to the looks rather than the words of him who spoke; these peculiarities had combined to produce a certain awe of him in his inferiors, and a dislike, not unavowed, in his equals. With his superiors he came seldom in contact, and to them his behaviour was still more distant and unbending. But, although from these causes he was far from being a favourite in the county, he was a man of such known and acknowledged probity that, until of late, when party spirit ran high and drew almost everybody, whether of consequence or not, to one side or the other, there was nobody who would not have trusted Roger Heywood to the uttermost. Even now, foes as well as friends acknowledged that he was to be depended upon; while his own son looked up to him with a reverence that in some measure overshadowed his affection. Such a character as this had necessarily been slow in formation, and the opinions which had been modified by it and had reacted upon it, had been as unalterably as deliberately adopted. But affairs had approached a crisis between king and parliament before one of his friends knew that there were in his mind any opinions upon them in process of formation--so reserved and monosyllabic had been his share in any conversation upon topics which had for a long time been growing every hour of more and more absorbing interest to all men either of consequence, intelligence, property, or adventure. At last, however, it had become clear, to the great annoyance of not a few amongst his neighbours, that Heywood's leanings were to the parliament. But he had never yet sought to influence his son in regard to the great questions at issue.
His house was one of those ancient dwellings which have grown under the hands to fit the wants of successive generations, and look as if they had never been other than old; two-storied at most, and many-gabled, with marvellous accretions and projections, the haunts of yet more wonderful shadows. There, in a room he called his study, shabby and small, containing a library more notable for quality and selection than size, Richard the next morning sought and found him.
'Father!' he said, entering with some haste after the usual request for admission.
'I am here, my son,' answered Roger, without lifting his eyes from the small folio in which he was reading.
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