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monarch comes into a humble corner The landlord groaned again a sinof his dominions. There could be no gular affirmative, which roused my doubt about his identity—this was curiosity at once.
Was it haunted ? the Squire.
or what could there be of tragical or Hodge at the window pulled his mysterious connected with the gableforelock reverentially; the old gen- room? tleman nodded to him, but turned However, I had only to make my his quick eye upon me—strangers acknowledgements, and accept with were somewhat unusual at the thanks the Squire's proposal, and we Witcherley Arms — and then my set out immediately for the manorboiled bacon, which I still only house. My companion looked hale, looked at! The Squire drew near active, and light of foot-scarcely with
and compassionating sixty—a comely, well-preserved old courtesy: I told him my story-I gentleman, with a clear frosty comhad missed the train. The train was plexion, blue eyes without a cloud, entirely a new institution in this pri- features somewhat high and delicate, mitive corner of the country. The and altogether, in his refined and old gentleman evidently did not half particular way, looked like the head approve of it, and treated my deten- of a long-lived patriarchal race, who tion something in the light of a might live a hundred years. He piece of retributive justice. Ah, paused, however, when we got to the haste, haste! nothing else will please corner, to look to the north over the us nowadays," he said, shaking his broken country on which the sunhead with dignity; "the good old shine slanted as the day began to coach, now, would have carried you wane. It was a wild solitary procomfortably, without the risk of a spect, as different as possible froin day's waiting or a broken limb; but the softer scenes through which I had novelty carries the day."
come to Witcherley. Those broken I did not say that the railway was, bits of road, rough cart-tracks over after all, not so extreme a novelty in the moor, with leaps of stones piled other parts of the world as in Witch- here and there, the intention of which erley, and I was rewarded for my one could not decide upon; fir-trees, forbearance. “If you do not inind all alone and by themselves, growing waiting half an hour, and walking singly at the angles of the roadhalf a inile," added the Squire im- sometimes the long horizontal gleam mediately, “I think I can promise of water in a deep cutting-someyou a better dinner than anything times a green bit of moss, prophetic you have here — a plain country of pitfall and quagmire — and table, sir, nothing more, and à visible moving thing upon the whole house of the old style ; but better scene. The picture to me was somethan honest Giles's bacon, to which what desolate. My new friend, howI see you don't take very kindly. ever, gazed upon it with a lingering He will give you a good bed, though eye, sighed, did not say anything-a clean, comfortable bed. I have but, turning round with a little veheslept myself, sir, on occasion, at the mence, took some highly-flavoured Witcherley Arms."
snuff from a small gold box, and When he said this, some recollec. seemed, under cover of this innocent tion or consciousness came for an stimulant, to shake off some emotion. instant across the old gentleman's As he did so, looking back I saw the countenance; and the landlord, who inmates of the Witcherley Arms at stood behind him, and who was also the door, in a little crowd gazing at an old man, uttered what seemed to him. The landscape must have been me a kind of suppressed groan. The as familiar to him as he was to these Squire heard it, and turned around good people. I began to grow very upon him quickly.
curious. Was anything going to “ If your gable-room is not other- lappen to the old Squire ? wise occupied to-night," said the old The old Squire, however, was of gentleman—“ mind I do not say it the class of men who enjoy conversawill, or is likely to be-put the gen- tion, and relish a good listener. He tleman into it, Giles.”
led me down through the noiseless
road, past the three cottages, to the which occupied the almost entire manorial gates, with a pleasant little mid-space of the apartment. These stream of remark and explanation, a three long dining-room windows little jannty wit, a little caustic ob- looked out upon the lawn and the servation, great natural sbrewdness, clipped yew-tree—the oriel looked and some little knowledge of the upon nothing, but was closely overworld. Entering in by that little shadowed by a group of lime-trees side-door to the avenue, was like casting down a tender, cold, green coming out of daylight into sudden light through their delicate wavering night. The road was narrow—the leaves. There were old panel portrees tall, old, and of luxuriant traits on the walls, old crimson hanggrowth. I did not wonder that his ings,-& carpet, of which all the worship was proud of them, but, for colours were blended and indistinmyself, should have preferred some- guishablo with old age. The chairs thing less gloomy. The line was in the recess were covered with emlong, too, and wound upwards by an broidery as faded as the carpet; irregular ascent; and the thick dark everything bore the same tone of foliage concealed, till we had almost antiquity. At the same time, everyreached it, the manor-house, which thing appeared in the most exemturned its turreted gable-end towards plary order, well-preserved and graceus, by no means unlike the Witcher- ful—without a trace of wealth, and loy Arms.
with many traces of frugality, yet It was a house of no particular undebased by any touch of shabbidate or character-old, irregular, and ness. And as the Squire placed hiinsomewhat picturesque-built of the self in the stiff elbow-chair in this grey limestone of the district, spotted pleasant little alcove, and cast his over with lichens, and covering here eye with becoming dignity down the and there the angle of a wall with an long line of the room, I could not but old growth of exuberant ivy-ivy so recognise a pleasant and suitable conold, thick, and luxuriant, that there geniality between my host and his was no longer any shapeliness or dis- house. tinctive character in the big, blunt, Presently a grave middle-aged glossy leaves. A small lawn before man-servant entered the room, and the door, graced with one clipped yow- busied himself very quietly spreadtree, was the only glimpse of air or ing the table—the Squire in the daylight, so far as I could see, about mean time entering upon a polite the house; for the trees closed in on and good-humoured catechetical exevery side, as if to shut it out entirely amination of myself; but pausing from all chance of seeing or being now and then to address a word to seen. The big hall-door opened from Joseph, which Joseph answered with without, and I followed the Squire extreme brevity and great respectwith no small curiosity into the fulness. There was nothing inquisinoiseless house, in which I could not tivo or disagreeablo in the Squire's hear a single domestic sound. Per- inquiries; on the contrary, they were haps drawing-rooms were not in com- pleasant indications of the kindly mon use at Witcherley—at all events interest which an old man often we went at once to the dining-room, shows in a young one unexpectedly a large long apartment, with an thrown into his path. I was by no ample fireplace at the upper end- means uninterested, meanwhile, in three long windows on one side, and the slowly-completed arrangements a curious embayed alcove in the cor- of the dinner-table, all accomplished ner, projecting from the room like an so quietly. When Joseph had nearafterthought of the builder. To this ly finished his operations, à tall pretty recess you descended by a single young fellow in a shooting.coat, step from the level of the dining- sullen, loutish, and down-looking, room, and it was lighted by a broad, lounged into the room, and threw Elizabethan oriel window, with a himself into an easy-chair. He did cushioned seat all round, fastened to not bear a single feature of resemthe wall. We went here, naturally blance to the courtly old beau beside passing by the long dining-table, me, yet was his son notwithstanding beyond all controversy—the heir sarily long time in arranging the of the house. Then came the earlier few plates of fruit and placing the instalments of the dinner; and simul- wine upon the table; and lingered taneously with the silver tureen ap- with visible anxiety, casting stealthy peared an old lady, who dropped looks of mingled awo and sympathy me a noiseless curtsey, and took her at his master, and exercising a seat at the head of the table, without watchful and jealous observation of a word. I could make nothing what- the young Squire. The old Squire, ever of this mistress of the house. however, took no notice, for his part, She was dressed in some faded rich of the sullenness of his heir, or the brocaded dress, entirely harinonising watch of Joseph, but pared his with the carpets and the embroidler- apple briskly, and went on with his ed chairs, and woro a large faint description of a celebrated old house brooch at her neck, with a half- in the neighbourhood, which, if I obliterated miniature, set round with had another day to spare, I would dull yellow pearls. She sent me find it very much worth my while soup, and carved the dishes placed to see. “At another time,” said the before her in a noiseless, seemingly old gentleman, “I might have offermotionless way, which there was no ed you my own services as guide comprehending; and was either the and cicerone; but present circummost mechanical autonaton in ex- stances make that impracticable; istence, or a person stunned and however, I advise you sincerely, go petrified. The young Squire sat yourself and see.” opposite myself, one person only at As he said these words, there the long vacant side of the table, seemed a simultaneous start of conwith his back to the three windows. sciousness on the part of the young An uneasy air of shame, sullenness, man and of the servant. Joseph's and half-resentment hung about him, napkin fell out of his hands, and he and he, too, never spoke. In spite, hurried from the room without pickhowever, of this uncomfortable com- ing it up; while the young Squire, panionship, the Squire, in his place with an evidently irrestrainable moat the foot of the table, kept up his tion, pushed back lis chair from the pleasant, lively, vivacious stream of table, grew violently red, drank conversation without the slightest half-a-dozen glasses of wine in rapid damp or restraint, -gave forth his succession, and cast a furtive and old-fashioned formal witticisms—his rapid glance at his father, who, permaxims of the old world, his digni- fectly lively and at his case, talked on fied country-gentleman reflections without a moment's discomposure. upon the errors of the new. Silent Then the young man rose up suddensat the presiding shadow at the ly, walked away from the table, head-silent the lout in the middle. tossed the fallen napkin into the The old servant, gravo, solemn, and fireplace with his foot, came back almost awe-stricken, moved silently again, grasped the back of his chair, about behind; yet, little assisted by cleared his throat, and, turning his my own discomposed and embar- flushed face towards his father withrassed responses, there was quite out lifting his eyes, seemed trying in a lively sound of conversation at vain to invent words for something the table, kept up by the brave old which he had to say. Squire.
Whatever it was, it would not bear With the conclusion of the dinner, words. The young Hercules, a fine, and with another little noiseless manly, full-grown figure, stood excurtsey, the old lady disappeared as actly opposite me, with his downshe came. I had not heard the looking eyes; but all that he seemed faintest whisper of her voice during able to articulate was a beginningthe whole time, nor observed her “I say, father; father, I say." looking at any one; and it was “No occasion for saying another almost a relief to hear her dress word about the matter, my boy," said rustle softly as she glided out of the the old gentleman. “I understand room. It seemed to me, however, you perfectly—come back as early as that our attendant took an unneces- you please to morrow, and you'll find all right, and everything prepared for through the close interlacing of those you. You may rely upon me." tremulous delicate lime-tree leaves.
Not another word was exchanged The Squire took his seat, paused between them; the lout plunged his again, sighed; and then turning hands into his pockets, and left the round towards the dining-room proroom as resentful, sullen, and ashamed per, which began to grow dim as as ever, yet with an air of relief. The twilight came on, cast a look someSquire leaned back in his chair for what melancholy, yet full of dignified an instiint, and sighed—but whether satisfaction, upon the array of family it was over a household mystery, or portraits, and began his tale. the excellence of the wine which he “We are an old family," said the held up to the light, it was impossible old gentleman; “I do not need to say to tell
, for he resumed what he was to any one acqnainted with this dissaying immediately, and rounded off trict, or with the untitled gentry of a handsome little sentence about the the North of England, how long and advantages of travel to young men. how unbroken has been our lineal
At this point Joseph entered once succession. Witcherley Manor-house more, with looks still more awe-strick- has descended for centuries, without en and anxious, on pretence of find- & single lapse, from father to son ; ing his napkin. “And now that we and you will observe, sir, one of the are alone,” said the Squire, calling distinguishing peculiarities of our him,
we may as well be comfortable. race, and the reason of my amazeTake the wine, Joseph, into the oriel. ment when you spoke unguardedly of We call it the oriel, though the word grandchildren, the offspring of every is a misnomer; but family customs, marriage in this house is one son." sir, family customs, grow strong and The words were said so solemnly flourish in an old house. It has been that I started—“One son!” named so since my earliest recollec- “One son," continued the Squire tion, and for generations before that.” with dignity, “ enough to carry on " And for generations after, no the race and preserve its honours
said I. "Your grandchil- nothing to divide or enctimber. In dren”
fact, I feel that the existence of the “My grandchildren!” exclaimed family depends on this wise and bethe old man with a look of dismay; nevolent arrangement of nature. If “but, my good sir, you are perfectly I have a regret,” said the old man excusable-perfectly excusable,” he mildly, with a natural sigh, "regardcontinued, recovering himself; "you ing the approaching marriage of my are not aware of my family history, boy, it is because he has chosen his and the traditions of the house. But wife, contrary to the usage of our I observe that you have shown some house, out of a neighbouring and very surprise at various little incidents- large family-- yet I ought to have understand me, I beg-shown sur- more confidence in the fortunes of prise in the most decorous and natural the race." manner consistent with perfect good- Being somewhat surprised, not to breeding. I should be uneasy did say dumbfoundered, by these reflecyou suppose I implied anything more tions, I thought it better to make no The fact is, you have come among us remark upon them, and prudently at a family crisis. Be seated—and to held my peace. understand it, you ought to know the " We were once rich, sir," conhistory of the house."
tinued the Squire, with a smile, I took my seat immediately, with “but that is a period beyond the haste and a little excitement. The memory of man, Three centuries Squire's elbow-chair had already been ago, an ancestor of mine, a man of placed by Joseph on the other side of curious erudition, a disciple of the the small carved oak table—the wine Rosy Cross, lost a large amount of with its dull ruby glow, and the old- the gold he had in search of the fashiono tall glasses, small goblets, mysterious power of making the long-stalked and ornamented, stood baser metals into gold. There he between us; and overhead a morsel hangs, sir, looking down upon us, & of inquisitive blue sky, looked into most remarkablo man. I would cal.
him the founder of our race, but that never happened ?” cried I, with such a statement would be untrue, eagerness. and would abridge our ascertained * It threatened to happen, sir, on genealogy by many generations ; he one occasion," said the Squire. ‘My was, however, the founder of every- own grandfather married a wife with thing remarkable in our history. In some fortune, who brought him a the pursuit of science he was so un- daughter. I am grieved to say of so fortunate as to risk and lose a large near a relation that his mind was portion of his family inheritance- degenerate. Instead of showing any everything, in short, but the Manor. disappointment, he made an exhibi, house and lands of Witcherley—I am tion of unseemly satisfaction at the not ashamed to say a small estate.” thought of escaping the fate of his I bent my head to the old man
He took down the old gate with involuntary respect, as he bowed way, sir, and erected the piece of to me over his wine in his stately old foolishness in iron which disfigures oril
!!, ?? Iness; but I mado my avenue. But it was shortlived
tion, and he imme- shortlivou. Providence stepped in, s tale.
and withdrew from him both wife Ts'y course of nature, and child; and it was only by a h
younger children second marriage late in life that he and daughters to escaped the terrible calamity of being house of Witcher- the last of his line. No, I am proud 5 ago have come to say that contingency has never
But my ancestor occurred, nor that vow been broken, !!"; he had purchased for three hundred years."
1) small cost, and "And the vow?” I grew quite er
in use of it, and he cited, and leaned over the little table 11 ! !* 1,5 ramo after him the to listen, with a thrill of expectation,
!!! om of the house, The Squire cleared his throat, kept "1-vow which each his eyes fixed upon the table, and an
pong us is pledged swered me slowly. It was not nervous.
head, "the lands of Witcherley are lon. I should be insufficient to support two housesy impertinent in- holds. When the heir is of age, and I - : the Squire came is disposed to marry, according to
and my curiosity the regulation of the family the d—“but might I father ceases; one generation passes
away, and another begins. Sir, my **? in filled his glass son is on the eve of marriage; he
ly. The daylight will be Squire of Witcherley to-inor-
“I beg my companion's your pardon," I said, faltering; “I opposite, in his have misunderstood you, of course. the most perfect You give up a portion of your aus wine.
thority—a share of your throne "ely,” he said with Oh, by no means unusual, I under in the providential stand."
nt of succession, “You do not understand me," said di ady told you of the Squire, “nor the ways of this
no longer binding house." I spoke nothing of share or
of Witcherley who portion; there is no such thing pos374 hild-one son." sible at Witcherley. I said, simply,
tingency, has it the father ceased and the son suc