« PoprzedniaDalej »
all informations lodged against these marauders when even in their worst state, were carelessly received, and still more negligently acted upon, and consequently served but to render our situation still more hazardous, have induced us at present to remain, if not perfectly satisfied, at least altogether quiescent."
"And do you not know who this young adventurer is, or whence he comes?" asked the bard.
"I must confess," replied Montchensey, "that after all our enquiries, and they have been prosecuted with no little eagerness and pertinacity, we are still, as to these essential particulars, altogether in the dark; for the suspicions to which I just now alluded have been very recently formed, and seem, at present, even to myself, too improbable to justify communication. Indeed he is so seldom seen in the immediate neighbourhood of Wyeburne Hall, which, fortunately for us, he appears sedulously to shun, that almost he may be said to be personally unknown to us."
Upon my word, my good friend," rejoined Shakspeare," much as I have felt interested for
this youth, in consequence of his late courteous demeanour towards myself, your account has given fresh wings to my curiosity. And what does my fair Helen," he added, turning towards her, as she sate attentively listening, but with downcast eyes, to the conversation, "what does she think of this very singular character? May I not surmise, that however justly she may condemn the way of life to which he has attached himself, there is a feeling of sympathy and sorrow in her breast for one so generous and so brave, though yet so erring?"
"And would you not, my dear Sir," said Helen, blushing deeply as she spoke, and then suddenly becoming pale, "would you not have me pity one who, if we may judge from his conduct, has perhaps been driven to this extremity by unhappy and, it is possible, uncontrollable circumstances ?"
"Marry, would I, my sweet girl," replied the poet, smiling; " for though I am no apologist of deeds incompatible with the rights of property, yet have I been much struck with this same Roland; there is a buoyancy of mind, and strength of character about him which pleases me much,
and it shall go hard but I will, ere long, with your leave and that of your father's, ascertain not only who he is, but what are his motives of action."
"I sincerely wish you may succeed," exclaimed Montchensey, with a thoughtful and perturbed brow; whilst on the countenance of Helen there sate an expression of timidity and pensiveness, which seemed to indicate an anxious and somewhat alarmed state of feeling.
The conversation, however, soon took a more lively if not a more interesting turn, and after many enquiries had been made concerning their Stratford friends, and a wish had been expressed by Helen that Mrs. Hall had accompanied her father, Shakspeare entered into an animated eulogium on the characteristic beauties of the country through which he had lately passed, describing the partial appearance of Wyeburne Hall, as it struck him in the rays of the setting sun, just previous to his descent into the valley, with all that warmth and enthusiasm, and richness of language, which absolutely paints what it strives to impress.
"A beam of satisfaction lighted up the fea
tures of Montchensey as the picture came before him, glowing with all the fairy tints which Shakspeare knew to give it. "Yes, my friend," he exclaimed in allusion to a sentiment which had fallen from the poet, "I am indeed truly proud of Wyeburne Hall; it has been the seat of my ancestors ever since the conquest, and many a deed of worth and valour hath tradition treasured to their memory. But, alas!" he added, and a cloud of deep gloom came over him as he uttered it, "I am the last male descendant of my house. A storm at once overwhelming and unforeseen, hath strewed its honours on the ground, and I remain a lone and blighted tree, desolate and withering in the blast of heaven!"
"And can this lovely scion," said his guest, pointing to the weeping Helen, who had clasped her father's knees, "can she be overlooked ?" “Oh no, oh no,” cried the afflicted parent, raising his fond child to his bosom, "I am much to blame; she is my only hope and stay, the very link to which my being clings; but even for her safety," and he shuddered whilst
he spoke it," am I in continual apprehenison and the dread of losing her sometimes influ ences my mind as if the event had really happened. But I beg your pardon," he added, starting from his chair; "I take shame to my self for this unseasonable introduction of my domestic sorrows."
As he said this he rang for his servants, and assuming a more cheerful air, "Come, my friend," he exclaimed, leading the way at the same time to the banquetting-room, "let me obliterate my fault by declaring, that notwithstanding what you have just witnessed, never did I exercise the rites of hospitality at Wyeburne Hall with more sincere and heart-felt pleasure than on the present occasion."
They now sate down to a repast in the true Elizabethan style of plenty and good cheer. Montchensey forgot, or contrived to lull to rest, his numerous cares; Helen smiled again with her wonted sweetness and fascination, and, after an hour spent in delightful and unalloyed intercourse, Shakspeare retired to rest, his host marshalling him the way across the hall, and