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and becoming white as ashes, "abide and hear me. You have killed me, I feel, by your unkindness. I have striven against it, but it would not avail. I am sinking fast—dying. I, who loved you, only you; yea, one beside-my brother, and you have slain him. Your hands are dripping in his blood, and I have kissed them—have clasped them. And now," continued she, with an energy that shook Sir Reginald, "I hate you-I abhor you-I renounce you- for ever! May my dying words ring in your ears on your death-bed, for that hour will come. You cannot shun that. Then, think of him! think of me!"
Away!" interrupted Sir Reginald, endeavouring to shake her off.
"I will not away! I will cling to you
-will curse you.
My unborn child shall live to curse you to requite you to visit my wrongs on you and yours. Weak as I am, you shall not cast me off. You shall learn to fear even me."
"I fear nothing living, much less a frantic woman." "Fear the dead then."
"Hence! or by the God above us
There was a struggle- a blow-and the wretched lady sank, shrieking, upon the floor. Convulsions seized her. A mother's pains succeeded, fierce and fast. She spoke no more, but died within the hour, giving birth to a female child.
Eleanor Rookwood became her father's idol-her father's bane. All the love he had to bestow was centred in her. She returned it not. She fled from his caresses. With all her mother's beauty, she had all her father's pride. Sir Reginald's every thought was for his daughter-for her aggrandisement. In vain. She seemed only to endure him, and while his affection waxed stronger, and entwined itself round her alone, she withered beneath his embraces as the shrub withers in the clasping folds of the parasite plant. She grew towards womanhood. Suitors thronged around her gentle and noble ones. Sir Reginald watched them with a jealous eye: He was wealthy, powerful, high in royal favour;-and could make his own election, He did so. For the first time, Eleanor promised obedience to his wishes. They accorded with her own humour. The day was appointed. It came. But with it came not the bride. She had fled, with the
humblest and the meanest of the pretenders to her hand — with one upon whom Sir Reginald supposed she had not deigned to cast her eyes. He endeavoured to forget her, and, to all outward seeming, was successful in the effort. But he felt that the curse was upon him, the undying flame scorched his heart. Once and once only they met again, in France, whither she had wandered. It was a dread encounter-terrible to both; but most so to Sir Reginald. He spoke not of her afterwards. Shortly after the death of his first wife, Sir Reginald had made proposals to a dowager of distinction, with a handsome jointure, one of his early attachments, and was, without scruple, accepted. The power of the family might then be said to be at its zenith; and but for certain untoward circumstances, and the growing influence of his enemies, Sir Reginald would have been elevated to the peerage. Like most reformed spendthrifts, he had become proportionately avaricious, and his mind seemed engrossed in accumulating wealth. In the meantime, his second wife followed her predecessor; dying, it was said, of vexation and disappointment.
The propensity to matrimony, always a distinguishing characteristic of the Rookwoods, largely displayed itself in Sir Reginald. Another dame followed-equally rich, younger, and far more beautiful than her immediate predecessor. She was a prodigious flirt, and soon set her husband at defiance. Sir Reginald did not condescend to expostulate. It was not his way. He effectually prevented any recurrence of her indiscretions: She was removed, and with her expired Sir Reginald's waning popularity. So strong was the expression of odium against him, that he thought it prudent to retire to his mansion in the country, and there altogether seclude him-self. One anomaly in Sir Reginald's otherwise utterly selfish character was uncompromising devotion to the house of Stuart; and shortly after the abdication of James II., he followed that monarch to St. Germain's, having previously mixed largely in secret political intrigues; and only returned from the French court to lay his bones with those of his ancestry, in the family vault at Rookwood.
SIR PIERS ROOKWOOD.
My old master kept a good house, and twenty
WILKINS. Miseries of Enforced Marriage.
SIR REGINALD died, leaving issue three children, a daughter, the before-mentioned Eleanor, (who, entirely discountenanced by the family, had been seemingly forgotten by all but her father,) and two sons by his third wife. Reginald, the eldest, whose military taste had early procured him the command of a company of horse, and whose politics did not coalesce with those of his sire, fell, during his father's lifetime, at Killiecrankie, under the banners of William. Piers, therefore, the second son, succeeded to the title.
A very different character, in many respects, from his father and brother, holding in supreme dislike courts and courtiers, party warfare, political intrigue, and all the subtleties of jesuitical diplomacy; neither having any inordinate relish for camps or campaigns; Sir Piers Rookwood yet displayed in early life one family propensity, viz. unremitting devotion to the sex. Among his other mistresses was the unfortunate Susan Bradley, to whom by some he was supposed to have being clandestinely united. In early youth, as has been stated, Sir Piers professed the faith of Rome, but shortly after the death of his beautiful mistress, (or wife as it might be,) having quarelled with his father's confessor, Checkley, he publicly abjured his heresies. Sir Piers subsequently allied himself to Maud, only daughter of Sir Thomas D'Aubeney, the last of a line as proud and intolerant as his own. The tables were then
turned. Lady Rookwood usurped sovereign sway over her lord, and Sir Piers, a cipher in his own house, scarce master of himself, much less of his dame, endured an existence so miserable, that he was often heard to regret, in his cups, that he had not inherited, with the estate of his forefathers, the family secret of shaking off the matrimonial yoke, when found to press too hardly.
At the onset, Sir Piers struggled hard to burst his bondage. But in vain - he was fast fettered; and only bruised himself, like the caged lark, against the bars of his prison house. Abandoning all further effort at emancipation, he gave himself up to the usual resource of a weak mind, debauchery; and drank so deeply to drown his cares, that, in the end, his hale constitution yielded to his excesses. It was even said, that remorse at his abandonment of the faith of his fathers had some share in his misery; and that his old spiritual, and if report spoke truly, sinful adviser, Father Checkley, had visited him secretly at the Hall. Sir Piers was observed to shudder, whenever the priest's name was mentioned.
Sir Piers Rookwood was a good humoured man in the main, had little of the old family leaven about him, and was esteemed by his associates. Of late, however, his temper became soured, and his friends deserted him; for, between his domestic annoyances, remorseful feelings, and the inroads already made upon his constitution by constant inebriety, he grew so desperate and insane in his revels, and committed such fearful extravagancies, that even his boon companions shrank from his orgies. Fearful were the scenes between him and Lady Rookwood upon these occasions-appalling to the witnesses, dreadful to themselves. And it was, perhaps, their frequent recurrence, that, more than any thing else, banished all decent society from the Hall.
At the time of Sir Piers's decease, which brings us down to the date of our story, his son and successor, Ranulph, was absent on his travels. Shortly after the completion of his academical education, he had departed to make the tour of the Continent, and had been absent rather better than a year. He had quitted his father in displeasure, and was destined never again to see his face while living. The last intelligence received of young Rookwood was from Bordeaux, whence it was thought he had departed for the Pyrenees. A special
messenger had been despatched in search of him, with tidings of the melancholy event. But, as it was deemed improbable by Lady Rookwood, that her son could return within any reasonable space, she gave directions for the accomplishment of the funeral rites of her husband on the sixth night after his decease, (it being the custom of the Rookwoods ever to inter their dead at midnight,) intrusting their solemnisation entirely to the care of one of Sir Piers's hangers-on, (Dr. Titus Tyrconnel,) for which she was greatly scandalised in the neighbourhood.
Ranulph Rookwood was a youth of goodly promise. The stock from which he sprang would on neither side warrant such conclusion. But it sometimes happens that from the darkest elements are compounded the brightest and subtlest substances; and so it occurred in this instance. Fair, frank, and free-generous, open, unsuspicious-he seemed the very opposite of all his race-their antagonising principle. Capriciously indulgent, his father had allowed him ample means, neither curbing nor restraining his expenditure; acceding at one moment to every inclination; and the next irresolutely opposing it. It was impossible therefore, for him, in such a state of things, to act decidedly, without incurring his father's displeasure; and the only measure he resolved upon, which was to absent himself for a time, was conjectured to have brought about the result he had endeavoured to avoid. Other reasons, however, there were, which secretly influenced him, which it will be our business in due time to detail.
THE time of the sad ceremonial drew nigh. of the domestics to and fro; the multifarious arrangements for the night; the distribution of the melancholy trappings, and the discussion of the "funeral baked meats," furnished abundant occupation within doors. Without, there was a constant