Page images

walked down them abreast; these steps inclined gradually to a half circle towards the back of the castle, terminating at the first terrace with most delicious gardens, laid out in the old Italian style, with colonnades of thick green bosquets, fountains, aviaries, square fishponds, labyrinths, and terrace above terrace; at the foot of these gardens, which occupied a perpendicular mile, was the most lovely valley that could be imagined, through which flowed a bright, babbling, dimpling stream; there was something childlike and joyous in the way this little brook dashed its crystal spray against the dull, stiff, old-maidish-looking stones, and then darted swiftly onward, as though afraid of their retaliating. This valley was full of cattle, and surrounded by hills, or rather rocks, covered with arbutus and larch; and on one side of it was a grove of linden-trees, about three quarters of a mile in length, and terminated by a parkpaling, which led into a deer-park, celebrated for the beauty of its timber and the wildness of its fern. In the linden grove was a mausoleum erected to Lady Lucy Mowbray, Lord Cheveley's mother, who had made it a particular request that she might not be buried in the family vault. So sheltered was this beautiful spot, that the flowers with which it was embellished bloomed all the year round, and the soft blush of the Persian rose mingled with

“The coy anemone, that ne'er uncloses

Her lips until they're blown on by the wind."* And, above all, breathed out the sweet and faithful wallflower, to which Treneuil has said, in his beautiful lines,

“Triomphe sans rivale, et que ta sainte fleur

Croisse pour le tombeau, le trône, et le malheur.” The whole place gave one not the idea of death, but of the shaded sleep of the blessed, that precedes their waking in eternal light!

Above the terraced gardens rose the castle itself, like a diadem of coroneted turrets, closely resembling (as I have before stated) the castle of Old Sarum inKing Stephen's time.

When Cheveley entered the low armory that formed the hall, and had received and returned the salutations

* H. Smith

of some fifty domestics, and intimated to Mr. Marshall. the steward, that he would retain them all in their different stations, he repaired to the library: it was the last room he had been in when, as a boy, his mother had been sent for to take him away for having disturbed his uncle's political musings by an ill-timed game of battledore and shuttlecock; and, certainly, politics apart, no room could be worse adapted for such an amusement, it being “ cumbered o'er with carving." Old as the building was, this room, at the expense of a whole wing, had been converted into a lofty gallery : the ceiling was that of a cathedral, between all the interstices of which were emblazoned the Cheveley arms, while from the spiral roses, at equal distances, hung large silver lamps, like those used in foreign churches, each burner being in the form of the old Greek lamp. The room itself was wainscoted with old black oak, arabesqued with gold of an arras pattern; the books only occupied one side of the room, and were divided by stalls of carved oak, in each recess of which were crimson velvet seats, and over each stall was a bust. Down the opposite side of the room were four-andtwenty colossal statues in carved wood, of the early church reformers and martyrs, which the late lord had many years before brought from Holland: they were in the Michael Angelo style, and for strength and expression could not have been excelled by him. In the panels at this side of the room were inserted portraits and historical pictures: here and there was an ancestor perpetuated by Holbein, in all the dignity of forked beards, jewelled vest, and lace ruffs. The historical pictures were very large, and only four in number: the subject of one was Henry the Eighth passing from his closet through a group of courtiers, and frowning at Cardinal Wolsey, thinking he had not yet set out for Calais, while the cardinal was kneeling to present the despatches he had brought back; the expression of the king's face was so skilfully managed, that one almost fancied one saw it change from displeasure to delighted surprise. The second was King John signing the Magna Charta: the mingled looks of anxiety, resolution, and defiance in the countenances of the barons, was very fine, and the hand of the contemptible monarch seemed to tremble beneath it. The subject of the third picture was the marriage of Elizabeth of France,


daughter of Henry the Second, to Philip the Second of Spain. The Bishop of Paris, according to the custom of 1559, was performing the marriage ceremony at the door of the church of Notre Dame. This was altogether a curious picture, done on three separate panels; and the demure look of the bride, the indifferent look of the bridegroom, the mechanical look of the bishop, the “ comme de raison” look of Henry the Second, the open mouths of the assembled crowd, and the perpendicular sleep of a little dog that sat on Elizabeth's train, formed a perfect mosaic of negatives. The fourth and last was somewhat of a daub, and not a very interesting subject; it was Prince Edward, son of Henry the Third, making the soldiers of Simon de Montfort, earl of Leicester, ride races, in order to escape from them. But over the high, old, carved chimney-piece was a “right merrie" picture of Ben Jonson carousing at the Mermaid, with Shakspeare, Herrick, and Howel; they were seated round a table covered with dropsicallooking flasks with long narrow necks, and ample glasses with tall stems.

“The rare arch-poet” presided in a chair rather higher than the rest, with Aushed face and collar somewhat awry, as though sack and sherries had done their office. James Howel had his eyes filially turned away from his poetical sire's excesses upon a quaint-looking old book in a dilapidated cover. Not so Herrick; he seemed to think that the true source of inspiration was to be derived from seeing Ben

“ Grow deeply and divinely drunk;"

while the then undeified“ Will," being but of small note among them, was peering upward over his high-backed chair, as he bestowed sundry ocular civilities upon a “ sweet Anne Page” looking damsel, in a pointed hat and snow-white ruff, who was enacting the part of Hebe to these choice spirits. In the window hung a magpie's cage; and through the narrow panes from the outside peeped Martin Donne and Alleyne the player, the latter twitching Donne's cloak and pointing archly to Shakspeare. There was a life in this picture that made one listen breathlessly to hear their mirth, till one turned with a sigh to the quotation from Herrick's ode, in gilt old English letters beneath it, and asked with him

“Ah! Ben,
Say how or when,
Shall we thy guests
Meet at those lyric feasts
Made at the Sun,
The Dog, the Triple Tun;
Where we such clusters had
As made us nobly wild, not mad?

And yet each verse of thine

Outdid the meat, outdid the frolic wine !" This room, or rather gallery, terminated in one large, deep mullion window, which overlooked the terraced gardens, while a door on the right side of the window opened into an orangery of an immense extent,

“And cheated churlish winter with sweet summer airs;" thus creating that perfect luxury which is formed by Gothic magnificence combined with modern comfort. Cheveley sighed as he looked round this, to him, splendid banishment: there was the old, high-backed, pointed Henry the Seventh's chair, that he had last seen his poor uncle in the morning he had been expelled; there, too, were the bootekins he had so often stumbled over, and the reading-table, which, in those days, he had hated as an altar to Tacita, for never dared he either move or speak when it was drawn to the fire; and with these mementoes, the recollection of the

“Smiles, the tears of boy hood's years," crowded thick and fast upon him; but soon his thoughts reverted to Julia, and his heart yearned to exchange the splendid halls of his fathers for the large, dingy, comfortless rooms of 11 Leone Bianco at Venice. “Ah!" thought he, “ were she but mistress of this place, I could understand what people meant by calling it charming; but as it is, there is a gloom and desolation about it that is to me perfectly insupportable." As if nature herself were angry at so unjust an aspersion, a flood of golden light from the setting sun at this moment streamed through the illuminated window, and made the whole gallery gorgeous with its prismatic colours. Cheveley walked to the window : the gardens, with their green terraces and bosquets, even at that bare season, were lovely, and the snow-capped hills in the distance looked like so many white-veiled vestals doing homage to the departing god of day.

Nature never appeals in vain, even to the most wretched. The door of the orangery was open: Cheveley walked through it to the gardens ; the air was redolent of orange blossoms and magnolias from a neighbouring hothouse; this called to him his mother's love of flowers in general, and these flowers in particular, and his heart was in his eyes as he mechanically bent his steps towards her grave in the grove of lindens. He paused when he came to the little brook, and stood and listened to it, for it spoke to him of other days : on its margin how often had he played, while his mother had sat reading under a large hospitable tree, now leafless, but bright with the setting sun, which, like an eastern monarch, was sinking into his bed of gold, while the silver crescent of the young moon had risen in the clear cold sky to take his place. “Yes, the tree is there still,” said he, thinking aloud, “but where is she now? There, if ever mortal was," added Cheveley, as he raised his eyes to heaven, where the pale, gentle-looking moon shone out like an emblem of purity and peace, A herd coming to water the cattle, he walked on, and turned down the avenue of lindens. How subjugating, yet exalting, are the feelings with which the graves of those we love inspire us ; there our dust suffers till it seems brought as low as theirs. We weep, we struggle, we upbraid our mother earth, but there also we pray, till our spirit soars to God, and to theirs. There is a turbu. lence in sin that we feel would disturb our eternal rest; and as our thoughts bear our hearts upward, we resolve to renounce it, for the passions sleep when conscience awakes, and amid the silence of death we distinctly hear “her still, small voice;" but, alas! back in the busy world again, among its turmoils and its tempta. tions, she in her turn sleeps, and the counsel we took with the sainted dead is forgotten or weakened by the aggressions and example of the living. Many were the tears that Cheveley shed at his mother's grave, although it was six years since her death; and, with the true waywardness of sorrow, at one moment he thanked God that she was spared the knowledge of all his present sufferings, while the next he wished her back on earth to cheer and console him; and yet she could not have done either, for, albeit, unlike Lord de Clifford's

« PreviousContinue »