Schulers Books Online
books - games - software - wallpaper - everything
- St. George and St. Michael Vol. III - 3/34 -
'Hold on, sir,' he shouted. 'Hold your own, father! Here I am! Here is Richard!'
And as he shouted he sent Beelzebub, like low-flying bolt from cross-bow, up the steep crown of the bridge, and wedged him in between Oliver and the parapet, just as a second cavalier made a dart for the place. At his horse Beelzebub sprang like a fury, rearing, biting, and striking out with his fore-feet in such manner as quite to make up to his rider for the disadvantage of his low stature. The cavalier's horse recoiled in terror, rearing also, but snorting and backing and wavering, so that, in his endeavours to avoid the fury of Beelzebub, which was frightful to see, for with ears laid back and gleaming teeth he looked more like a beast of prey, he would but for the crowd behind him have fallen backward down the slope. A bullet from one of Richard's pistols sent his rider over his tail, the horse fell sideways against that of Mr. Heywood's antagonist, and the path was for a moment barricaded.
'Well done, good Beelzebub!' cried Richard, as he reined him back on to the crest of the bridge.
'Boy!' said his father sternly, at the same instant dealing his encumbered opponent a blow on the head-piece which tumbled him also from his horse, 'is the sacred hour of victory a time to sully with profane and foolish jests? I little thought to hear such words at my side--not to say from the mouth of my own son!'
'Pardon me, father; I praised my horse,' said Richard. 'I think not he ever had praise before, but it cannot corrupt him, for he is such an ill-conditioned brute that they that named him did name him Beelzebub: Now that he hath once done well, who knoweth but it may cease to fit him!'
'I am glad thy foolish words were so harmless,' returned Mr. Heywood, smiling. 'In my ears they sounded so evil that I could ill accept their testimony.--Verily the animal is marvellous ill-favoured, but, as thou sayest, he hath done well, and the first return we make him shall be to give him another name. The less man or horse hath to do with Satan the better, for what is he but the arch-foe of the truth?'
While they spoke, they kept a keen watch on the enemy--who could not get near to attack them, save with a few pistol-bullets, mostly wide-shot--for both horses were down, and their riders helpless if not slain.
'What shall we call him then, father?' asked Richard.
'He is amazing like a huge rat!' said his father. 'Let us henceforth call him Bishop.'
'Wherefore Bishop and not Beelzebub, sir?' inquired Richard.
Mr. Heywood laughed, but ere he could reply, a large troop of horsemen appeared at the top of the street. Glancing then behind in some anxiety, they saw to their relief that the pikemen had now formed themselves into a hollow square at the foot of the bridge, prepared to receive cavalry. They turned therefore, and, passing through them, rode to find their regiment.
From that day Bishop, notwithstanding his faults many and grievous, was regarded with respect by both father and son, Richard vowing never to mount another, let laugh who would, so long as the brute lived and he had not recovered Lady.
But they had to give him room for two on the march, and the place behind him was always left vacant, which they said gave no more space than he wanted, seeing he kicked out his leg to twice its walking length. Before long, however, they had got so used to his ways that they almost ceased to regard them as faults, and he began to grow a favourite in the regiment.
DOROTHY AND ROWLAND.
Such was the force of law and custom in Raglan that as soon as any commotion ceased things settled at once. It was so now. The minds of the marquis and lord Charles being at rest both as regarded the gap in the defences of the castle and the character of its inmates, the very next day all was order again. The fate of Amanda was allowed gradually to ooze out, but the greater portion both of domestics and garrison continued firm in the belief that she had been carried off by Satan. Young Delaware, indeed, who had been revelling late--I mean in the chapel with the organ--and who was always the more inclined to believe a thing the stranger it was, asserted that he SAW devil fly away with her--a testimony which gained as much in one way as it lost in another by the fact that he could not see at all.
To Scudamore her absence, however caused, was only a relief. She had ceased to interest him, while Dorothy had become to him like an enchanted castle, the spell of which he flattered himself he was the knight born to break. All his endeavours, however, to attract from her a single look such as indicated intelligence, not to say response, were disappointed. She seemed absolutely unsuspicious of what he sought, neither, having so long pretermitted what claim he might once have established to cousinly relations with her, could he now initiate any intimacy on that ground. Had she become an inmate of Raglan immediately after he first made her acquaintance, that might have ripened to something more hopeful; but when she came she was in sorrow, nor felt that there was any comfort in him, while he was beginning to yield to the tightening bonds mistress Amanda had flung around him. Nor since had he afforded her any ground for altering her first impressions, or favourably modifying a feature of the portrait lady Margaret had presented of him.
Strange to say, however, poorly grounded as was the orignal interest he had taken in her, and little as he was capable of understanding her, he soon began, even while yet confident in his proved advantages of person and mind and power persuasive, to be vaguely wrought upon by the superiority of her nature. With this the establishment of her innocence in the eyes of the household had little to do; indeed, that threatened at first to destroy something of her attraction; a passionate, yielding, even erring nature, had of necessity for such as he far more enchantment than a nature that ruled its own emotions, and would judge such as might be unveiled to it. Neither was it that her cold courtesy and kind indifference roused him to call to the front any of the more valuable endowments of his being; something far better had commenced: unconsciously to himself, the dim element of truth that flitted vaporous about in him had begun to respond to the great pervading and enrounding orb of her verity. He began to respect her, began to feel drawn as if by another spiritual sense than that of which Amanda had laid hold. He found in her an element of authority. The conscious influences to whose triumph he had been so perniciously accustomed, had proved powerless upon her, while those that in her resided unconscious were subduing him. Her star was dominant over his.
At length he began to be aware that this was no light preference, no passing fancy, but something more serious than he had hitherto known--that in fact he was really, though uncomfortably and unsatisfactorily, in love with her. He felt she was not like any other girl he had made his shabby love to, and would have tried to make beter to her, but she kept him at a distance, and that he began to find tormenting. One day, for example, meeting her in the court as she was crossing towards the keep,--
'I would thou didst take apprentices, cousin,' he said, 'so I might be one, and learn of thee the mysteries of thy trade.'
'That I might spare thee something of thy labour.'
'That were no kindness. I am not like thee; I find labour a thing to be courted rather than spared; I am not overwrought.'
Scudamore gazed into her grey eyes, but found there nothing to contradict, nothing to supplement the indifference of her words. There was no lurking sparkle of humour, no acknowledgment of kindness. There was a something, but he could not understand it, for his poor shapeless soul might not read the cosmic mystery embodied in their depths. He stammered--who had never known himself stammer before, broke the joints of an ill-fitted answer, swept the tiles with the long feather in his hat, and found himself parted from her, with the feeling that he had not of himself left her, but had been borne away by some subtle force emanating from her.
Lord Herbert had again left the castle. More soldiers and more must still be raised for the king. Now he would be paying his majesty a visit at Oxford, and inspecting the life-guards he had provided him, now back in South Wales, enlisting men, and straining every power in him to keep the district of which his father was governor in good affection and loyal behaviour.
Winter drew nigh, and stayed somewhat the rushx of events, clogged the wheels of life as they ran towards death, brought a little sleep to the world and coolness to men's hearts--led in another Christmas, and looked on for a while.
Nor did the many troubles heaped on England, the drained purses, the swollen hearts, the anxious minds, the bereaved houses, the ruptures, the sorrows, and the hatreds, yet reach to dull in any large measure the merriment of the season at Raglan. Customs are like carpets, for ever wearing out whether we mark it or no, but Lord Worcester's patriarchal prejudices, cleaving to the old and looking askance on the new, caused them to last longer in Raglan than almost anywhere else: the old were the things of his fathers which he had loved from his childhood; the new were the things of his children which he had not proven.
What a fire that was that blazed on the hall-hearth under the great chimney, which, dividing in two, embraced a fine window, then again becoming one, sent the hot blast rushing out far into the waste of wintry air! No one could go within yards of it for the fierce heat of the blazing logs, now and then augmented by huge lumps of coal. And when, on the evenings of special merry-making, the candles were lit, the musicians were playing, and a country dance was filling the length of the great floor, in which the whole household, from the marquis himself, if his gout permitted, to the grooms and kitchen-
Previous Page Next Page
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 10 20 30 34
Schulers Books Online
books - games - software - wallpaper - everything