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- St. George and St. Michael Vol. II - 5/34 -

explained neither by the more frequent returns of his gout, nor by the more lengthened absences of his favourite son. In his judgment the king was losing ground, not only in England but in the deeper England of its men. Lady Margaret also, for all her natural good spirits and light-heartedness, showed a more continuous anxiety than was to be accounted for by her lord's absences and the dangers he had to encounter: little Molly, the treasure of her heart next to her lord, had never been other than a delicate child, but now had begun to show signs of worse than weakness of constitution, and the heart of the mother was perpetually brooding over the ever-present idea of her sickly darling.

But she always did her endeavour to clear the sky of her countenance before sitting down with her father-in-law at the dinner-table, where still the marquis had his jest almost as regularly as his claret, although varying more in quality and quantity both--now teasing his son Charles about the holes in his pasteboard, as he styled the castle walls; now his daughter Anne about a design, he and no one else attributed to her, of turning protestant and marrying Dr. Bayly; now Dr. Bayly about his having been discovered blowing the organ in the chapel at high mass, as he said; for when no new joke was at hand he was fain to content himself with falling back upon old ones. The first of these mentioned was founded on the fact, as undeniable as deplorable, of the weakness of many portions of the defences, to remedy which, as far as might be, was for the present lord Charles's chief endeavour, wherein he had the best possible adviser, engineer, superintendent, and workman, all in the person of Caspar Kaltoff. The second jest of the marquis was a pure invention upon the liking of lady Anne for the company and conversation of the worthy chaplain. The last mentioned was but an exaggeration of the following fact.

One evening the doctor came upon young Delaware, loitering about the door of the chapel, with as disconsolate a look as his lovely sightless face was ever seen to wear, and, inquiring what was amiss with him, learned that he could find no one to blow the organ bellows for him. The youth had for years, boy as he still was, found the main solace of his blindness in the chapel-organ, upon which he would have played from morning to night could he have got any one to blow as long. The doctor, then, finding the poor boy panting for music like the hart for the water-brooks, but with no Jacob to roll the stone from the well's mouth that he might water the flocks of his thirsty thoughts, made willing proffer of his own exertions to blow the bellows of the organ, so long as the somewhat wheezy bellows of his body would submit to the task.

By degrees however the good doctor had become so absorbed in the sounds that rushed, now wailing, now jubilant, now tender as a twilight wind, now imperious as the voice of the war-tempest, from the fingers of the raptured boy, that the reading of the first vesper-psalm had commenced while he was yet watching the slow rising index, in the expectation that the organist was about to resume. The voice of his Irish brother-chaplain, Sir Toby Mathews, roused him from his reverie of delight, and as one ashamed he stole away through the door that led from the little organ loft into the minstrel's gallery in the great hall, and so escaped the catholic service, but not the marquis's roasting. Whether the music had any share in the fact that the good man died a good catholic at last, I leave to the speculation of who list.

Lady Margaret continued unchangingly kind to Dorothy; and the tireless efforts of the girl to amuse and please poor little Molly, whom the growing warmth of the season seemed to have no power to revive, awoke the deep gratitude of a mother. This, as well as her husband's absences, may have had something to do with the interest she began to take in the engine of which Dorothy had assumed the charge, for which she had always hitherto expressed a special dislike, professing to regard it as her rival in the affections of her husband, but after which she would now inquire as Dorothy's baby, and even listen with patience to her expositions of its wonderful construction and capabilities. Ere long Dorothy had a tale to tell her in connection with the engine, which, although simple and uneventful enough, she yet found considerably more interesting, as involving a good deal of at least mental adventure on the part of her young cousin.

One evening, after playing with little Molly for an hour, then putting her to bed and standing by her crib until she fell asleep, Dorothy ran to see to her other baby; for the cistern had fallen rather lower than she thought well, and she was going to fill it. She found Caspar had lighted the furnace as she had requested; she set the engine going, and it soon warmed to its work.

The place was hot, and Dorothy was tired. But where in that wide and not over-clean place should she find anything fitter than a grindstone to sit upon? Never yet, through all her acquaintance with the workshop, had she once seated herself in it. Looking about, however, she soon espied, almost hidden in the corner of a recess behind the furnace, what seemed an ordinary chair, such as stood in the great hall for the use of the family when anything special was going on there. With some trouble she got it out, dusted it, and set it as far from the furnace as might be, consistently with watching the motions of the engine. But the moment she sat down in it, she was caught and pinned so fast that she could scarcely stir hand or foot, and could no more leave it again than if she had been paralyzed in every limb. One scream she uttered of mingled indignation and terror, fancying herself seized by human arms; but when she found herself only in the power of one of her cousin's curiosities, she speedily quieted herself and rested in peace, for Caspar always paid a visit to the workshop the last thing before going to bed. The pressure of the springs that had closed the trap did not hurt her in the least--she was indeed hardly sensible of it; but when she made the least attempt to stir, the thing showed itself immovably locked, and she had too much confidence in the workmanship of her cousin and Caspar to dream of attempting to open it: that she knew must be impossible. The worst that threatened her was that the engine might require some attention before the hour, or perhaps two, which must elapse ere Caspar came would be over, and she did not know what the consequences might be.

As it happened, however, something either in the powder-mill or about the defences detained Caspar far beyond his usual hour for retiring, and the sultriness of the weather having caused him a headache, he represented to himself that, with mistress Dorothy tending the engine, who knew where and would be sure to find him upon the least occasion, there could be no harm in his going to bed without paying his usual precautionary visit to the keep.

So Dorothy sat, and waited in vain. The last drops of the day trickled down the side of the world, the night filled the crystal globe from its bottom of rock to its cover of blue aether, and the red glow of the furnace was all that lighted the place. She waited and waited in her mind; but Caspar did not come. She began to feel miserable. The furnace fire sank, and the rush of the water grew slower and slower, and ceased. Caspar did not come. The fire sank lower and lower, its red eye dimmed, darkened, went out. Still Caspar did not come. Faint fears began to gather about poor Dorothy's heart. It was clear at last that there she must be all the night long, and who could tell how far into the morning? It was good the night was warm, but it would be very dreary. And then to be fixed in one position for so long! The thought of it grew in misery faster than the thing itself. The greater torment lies always in the foreboding. She felt almost as if she were buried alive. Having their hands tied even, is enough to drive strong men almost crazy. Nor, firm of heart as she was, did no evils of a more undefined and less resistible character claim a share in her fast-rising apprehensions; she began to discover that she too was assailable by the terror of the night, although she had not hitherto been aware of it, no one knowing what may lie unhatched in his mind, waiting the concurrence of vital conditions.

But Dorothy was better able to bear up under such assaults than thousands who believe nothing of many a hideous marvel commonly accepted in her day; and anyhow the unavoidable must be encountered, if not with indifference, yet with what courage may be found responsive to the call of the will. So, with all her energy, a larger store than she knew, she braced herself to endure. As to any attempt to make herself heard, she knew from the first that was of doubtful result, and now must certainly be of no avail when all but the warders were asleep. But to spend the night thus was a far less evil than to be discovered by the staring domestics, and exposed to the open merriment of her friends, and the hidden mockery of her enemies. As to Caspar, she was certain of his silence. So she sat on, like the lady in Comus, 'in stony fetters fixed and motionless;' only, as she said to herself, there was no attendant spirit to summon Caspar, who alone could take the part of Sabrina, and 'unlock the clasping charm.' Little did Dorothy think, as in her dreary imprisonment she recalled that marvellous embodiment of unified strength and tenderness, as yet unacknowledged of its author, that it was the work of the same detestable fanatic who wrote those appalling 'Animadversions, &c.'

She grew chilly and cramped. The night passed very slowly. She dozed and woke, and dozed again. At last, from very weariness of both soul and body, she fell into a troubled sleep, from which she woke suddenly with the sound in her ears of voices whispering. The confidence of lord Herbert, both in the evil renown of his wizard cave and the character of his father's household, seemed mistaken. Still the subdued manner of their conversation appeared to indicate it was not without some awe that the speakers, whoever they were, had ventured within the forbidden precincts; their whispers, indeed, were so low that she could not say of either voice whether it belonged to man or woman. Her first idea was to deliver herself from the unpleasantness of her enforced espial by the utterance of some frightful cry such as would at the same time punish with the pains of terror their fool-hardy intrusion. But the spur of the moment was seldom indeed so sharp with Dorothy as to drive her to act without reflection, and a moment showed her that such persons being in the marquis's household as would meet in the middle of the night, and on prohibited ground, apparently for the sake of avoiding discovery, and even then talked in whispers, he had a right to know who they were: to act from her own feelings merely would be to fail in loyalty to the head of the house. Who could tell what might not be involved in it? For was it not thus that conspiracy and treason walked? And any alarm given them now might destroy every chance of their discovery. She compelled herself therefore to absolute stillness, immeasurably wretched, with but one comfort--no small one, however, although negative--that their words continued inaudible, a fact which doubtless saved much dispute betwixt her propriety and her loyalty.

Long time their talk lasted. Every now and then they would start and listen--so Dorothy interpreted sudden silence and broken renewals. The genius of the place, although braved, had yet his terrors. At length she heard something like a half-conquered yawn, and soon after the voices ceased.

Again a weary time, and once more she fell asleep. She woke in the grey of the morning, and after yet two long hours, but of more hopeful waiting, she heard Caspar's welcome footsteps, and summoned

St. George and St. Michael Vol. II - 5/34

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